Can I tell you about the problem with public assistance?

First, It is a bummer that anyone has to access public assistance. But 20 years ago I did. I had three little girls, and was living in low income housing in Waterville, Maine, a single mom, after a failed marriage. Since I received no child support at all, I applied for the ASPIRE program, which was a great program! I went through school to be a dental assistant, and I loved every minute of it. The ASPIRE program encouraged me to finish my HS edu, and get my GED. The lady at Adult Ed took the time to tell me I was smart, something I had never heard! While I was in school, I obtained a 4.0 grade point average, and my family was funded completely by the government. They paid for my housing, my car, my groceries, my daycare, it was a really nice ride! Then I graduated and quickly found employment in the field, which was wonderful. I made 8.50 an hour, for 40 hours. Do the math. (I’m no good at math, but I was great at medical terminology thanks to Claire Celenza, whom I will never forget!)

Then, the government dropped me. I had been taking my 3 girls to daycare to the tune of 145 a week. 3 little girls who were still pre school. That left me 200 a week. I lost food stamps because I was working, that left me about 120 a week after food. I paid 80 dollars a month for housing before I worked, but since I got a job my rent went up to 320 a month. Then there was insurance for my car, clothes for the kids, gas, electricity, heat…You get it.

I’m not ungrateful, I know my education was paid for, and ASPIRE paid for my childcare while I was in school, as well as car expenses, and I’m grateful! But I couldn’t make it. The stress was overwhelming. And on top of all of that, I couldn’t be with my children during the day and be their mom, they were stuck in a daycare all day.

Then I came to my senses! With state aid, I had virtually free housing, I was eligible for foodstamps, I got a check for over 500.00 a month, AND I could stay home with my children and raise them myself rather than drop them off at a state funded daycare every day. I quit my job.

My girls are incredible. I was an awesome mom, and I was there for them because of the help the government supplied. I WAS PAID FOR BEING A GOOD MOTHER TO MY CHILDREN! I’m grateful for that!  I know that is not always the story, but it is my story, and so many others who feel guilty for not “working” outside the home. Why is it considered less than desirable to stay home with our kids? Why are our kids robbed of their mothers because our culture thinks money must be made? It’s a travesty.  HOW MUCH MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED IF THE GOVERNMENT HAD WAITED, supporting me as a mom instead? Why is it a better choice to let someone else raise my children? IT IS NOT.

8.50 an hour did not rescue me from the predicament I was in. Neither did paying to put me through a college program. IT LOOKS GOOD THOUGH! IT LOOKS ADMIRABLE! Why isn’t being a great mom admirable? Why isn’t supporting a mom with young children a heroic deed to the government? WHY DO YOU LOOK DOWN ON THAT YOUNG SINGLE MOM?

I’m so sick of the judgement and the generalizing. Not all people on welfare are slackers. It makes me so sad! It makes me so mad. If we want to change our world, teach the value of family. Teach parenting. Encourage education, yes, but encourage good parenting too! Our children ARE OUR FUTURE. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that things aren’t working. Children need to be raised by their moms, by people who love them, and not shuttled off to daycare every day to be influenced by a person who may or may not be invested in them.

Just a thought.

Categories: spirituality | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Can I tell you about the problem with public assistance?

  1. Amen. Love you and so proud of you!

  2. Britt Wolfe

    Thanks for your thoughts and your honesty. It’s a very thorny, complicated problem. One that is getting worse and not better as we lose more and more skilled and semi-skilled jobs, leaving only those that require technical degrees and those that you can do with a fifth grade education or less. Or in your case, jobs which require some skills and still don’t pay a living wage. Our leaders need to understand that a healthy nation requires healthy families, and healthy families require the ability to earn enough to make ends meet and still care for children. We have lost that, to our peril.

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