The Last Interview; Has Anything Changed?

teen-births-in-washington-county-prevention-may-2009I interviewed Rochelle for the last time yesterday. She has been coming into my living room on a weekly basis for almost two years for an hour-long interview, and we have become good friends. “You know more about me than anyone,” she told me. “I usually keep all this stuff to myself.”

In Meet Rochelle, the introduction to this blog, we explain why this project got started. Now it is over. The original and most immediate purpose of the interviews was to provide Rochelle with a dignified way of making a little extra money when she was working at a part-time job for minimum wage. We also hoped that her story might be a useful tool in informing more privileged people about what life is like in the culture of poverty. Now that Rochelle has reached something of a plateau,  it is hard not to evaluate where she is today as opposed to where she was in her life two years ago. We started by discussing teenage pregnancy, and we spent part of our last interview with that discussion again.

My first question to Rochelle almost two years ago was to ask why she had continued not to use birth control even though she had delivered her first child while still in high school without support from the father. Two years ago Rochelle was not really sure of the answer. Now, she is really not sure how she is going to prevent the same thing from happening to her daughters. Though she is supervising her children much more closely than her mother supervised her and her siblings, she doesn’t seem to understand that it will take much more than that to prevent her daughters from becoming pregnant too early and to prevent her son from impregnating someone at a young age. Part of this is probably due to the fact that early pregnancy, without male support, is the rule rather than the exception in the world Rochelle and her children inhabit. Some of it is probably due to Rochelle’s lack of understanding of the complex of factors that resulted in her early pregnancy, and that will probably cause the same thing for her daughters. It is also due to the starvation Rochelle felt as a teenager, and her children feel now, for affection, approval, and acceptance, a hunger for which a teenage boy seems like a perfect solution. Finally, if Rochelle’s daughters have no future to protect, as Rochelle did not at 16, they will see no reason not to get pregnant, especially if all around them their friends are doing just that.We have discussed the need for goals in life, and Rochelle now has some for herself, but I am not at all sure she is confident about being able to develop goals for her children’s lives.

So, two years later, Rochelle has a much better job. She has gone from $7.25/hr and working part-time in a dead end position to $11.25/hr and working full-time on the promotion path in a new company. She has been there over a year and qualifies for benefits. She has graduated from the company’s beginning management classes and is preparing to enter their official management school next year. This is a truly positive difference in Rochelle’s life from where she was when I started interviewing her.

Rochelle is also developing a relationship with a credit union so that she might improve her credit score and be able to function within a normal banking system instead of the payday loans, finance companies, and sub-prime car dealerships she currently is forced to deal with. Unfortunately, after our last interview ended, she was going directly to the sub-prime car dealership she had bought her last car from in order to trade it in on another car. This time, however, she has in her hand all the customer complaints recently levied against the company, and she will go in with her eyes wide open and questions to ask. Her current car, as blog readers will already know, was a lemon. “I change the oil every 3,000 miles,” Rochelle had always said when new problems developed. “It is just a bad car,” I would tell her.

Rochelle is still poor; she still has car problems and credit problems; and her mother’s health will not be improving. But the most troubling thing is that despite our discussions of teenage pregnancy and how it has affected her life, she still has not discussed sex and early pregnancy with her 12-year-old daughter; the probability of breaking the cycle of poverty in this generation seems unlikely. Rochelle’s problems are just too complex for her to overcome by herself; addressing all the problems is overwhelming. Still, to have a job that is turning into a career is a big step forward for her.

I will still be seeing Rochelle for lunch every month. Perhaps the blog is really not ending yet. Perhaps I will log in for new posts after our monthly lunches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preventing Teenage Pregnancy: Breaking the Poverty Cycle

imagesI have been interviewing Rochelle for well over a year, and I wondered how her thinking about teenage pregnancy had changed over that time. I wondered if there had been any change at all. Her eldest daughter just turned 12 this month and is in middle school. When we first discussed it, Rochelle had said she thought her daughter was too young for a conversation about sex, even though Rochelle’s own sister had a baby at 14 and Rochelle had a baby at 17. Her daughter was 10 at the time. Over the last year and a half I had brought the subject up a few times, but it never went very far. Rochelle said she knew she needed to have “the talk,” but either thought her daughter was too young, or she thought the school would handle it. Her answer to the same question was very different when I again raised it a couple of days ago. We have only two more interviews until our agreed upon interview period is over, and I wanted to see what she now said.  “I think everything will be fine,” she told me. “My children have adult supervision at all times. My sisters and I didn’t; and we had a mama who was bringing different men home all the time. I don’t do that; I’m raising my children better than that,” she emphasized. “Anyway, black people just do things differently from white people,” she told me. In Rochelle’s world, having a baby or several babies while still in your teen years is more common than not. She talks about wanting to break the cycle of poverty that her family has experienced for generations, but still doesn’t seem to understand how becoming a teenaged mother has contributed to this cycle. One hundred percent of her female relatives had become mothers while in their teens. One hundred percent of her relatives that I am aware of are living in the culture of poverty. Her eldest sister is not on government assistance, but her family of six, plus a relative’s baby, live in a cramped two bedroom apartment.

“Adult supervision is good and needed,” I told her. “But it is not enough. What will happen when your children start dating?” “They don’t date now,” Rochelle said. I told her I thought she was also uncomfortable about having “the talk” with her daughter. “Yes, I am uncomfortable,” Rochelle said, “The school will handle it.” “That didn’t stop your sisters or you from becoming pregnant,” I replied. “But I’m supervising my children, and I don’t bring men home like Mama did,” she repeated. “If you are going to break the cycle of poverty in your family, you’re going to have to stop teen pregnancy in your family,” I said. And then we moved on to other subjects such as how her job is going.

Her job is going well. Next week she will graduate from her work sponsored management-training program. She had given her “final exam” which was a five-minute presentation of what she had learned and how she was going to use the knowledge going forward. In that presentation she held up a magnet I had given her, which said: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”   Several of the managers who were watching her presentation came up to her later and said they loved the quote. “I think I did good,” Rochelle said. She is comfortable talking about her progress at work, but not about the subject of teen pregnancy. A year and a half ago she could just think it wouldn’t happen to her children, but now, with her daughter reaching puberty, she is still so uncomfortable with the idea of discussing sex with her daughter that she cannot bring herself to deal with the problem. Clearly, despite Rochelle’s hard work and impressive successes at work, the power of the culture she grew up in continues to exert its influences.

Dropping Grades

Unknown Rochelle’s work schedule has changed, now that she is training to be a supervisor over the grocery store cashiers, and her children are suffering for it. She often doesn’t get home until after midnight, while her mother is left to look after the three children. Tasha, the children’s grandmother, dropped out of high school herself. Not only is she not capable of helping her grandchildren with their homework, she has no inclination even to try. What Tasha does is watch television and eat; when Rochelle is working in the evening this is what the children are doing as well. Not surprisingly the children’s grades are dropping; they are also gaining weight.

“I have to go back to just being a cashier so I can get a better schedule at work,” Rochelle told me in tears over the phone. She had called me while waiting in her car for her eldest daughter to get out of school. “All the kids’ grades are dropping, and I feel so guilty. I don’t want them to grow up like I did with no support, but now they aren’t doing well in school because no one is home to help them.” Rochelle is caught in a difficult situation. She is trying to learn how to be a successful supervisor in order to move up in the company, yet this has caused the children to fall behind in school. The pressure on Rochelle is tremendous. She has to work to provide for her children, but since the after-school-care program was cut by the Texas legislature last year, the only place her children have to go when school is over is back to the apartment. The apartment is not conducive to homework and studying. There is no one to care for the children except Tasha, the grandmother, when Rochelle is at work.

The three children are in kindergarten, 2nd grade, and Kalinda, the eldest, is now in 6th grade and attending junior high. Not surprisingly, school performance decreases as the age of the children increases. Tasha has always been taking care of the children when Rochelle is at work; it is just now becoming very obvious to Rochelle that the children need much more than just an adult in the apartment when they are out of school. Kalinda is reading at a 1st grade level, and she is in the 6th grade; that did not just develop since Rochelle has been working her new schedule. Rochelle wants so badly to break the cycle of poverty that her family has experienced for generations, yet just about everything is stacked against her. AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), the program that paid indefinite benefits to single mothers with young children, was eliminated in 1996, and replaced with Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), which has a very short eligibility span. The idea was to get “welfare mothers” out of their homes and into jobs. It sounded to many people like a great idea. But with no provision for the care of the children of single working mothers, the result is a nightmare for all concerned. And as these children grow up with insufficient education and job skills, their nightmare will be shared by the entire society, which will have to support these children as adults with various safety net programs. We continue to be willing to pay for poverty on the installment plan, though like all installment plans, it makes the product cost more.

Stormy Seas Again

images-1I thought it was only a matter of time before the relative calm in Rochelle’s life would end; I had been fairly certain it would be either her mother’s health or the breakdown of her car that would cause the stormy seas to break out again; it was the car.

“My safety sticker has expired and I can’t get a new one because my engine light is on,” Rochelle told me. Her engine light had been on for many months and her car had not been working well during this time. She had tried to have her sister’s ex-husband fix the problem; parts had been replaced but the problem had remained. Deshawn, the ex-brother-in-law, had run a computer check when the light had first come on. He manages a quick- oil- change location and has always offered to help. He has also, on occasion, put safety stickers on Rochelle’s cars even though the cars had safety problems. This time, however, Deshawn could not do this for her; people had recently been fired at his shop for doing exactly that; He didn’t want to lose his job.

“I have to get my sticker because Mama drives the car. If the police stop her because of no sticker, she’ll go to jail; she has outstanding warrants,” Rochelle reminded me. Her mother was on parole for welfare fraud and had stopped going to her parole officer long ago. She had also not paid back the money she had gained by this fraud as required by the court. It is somewhat common for people to procrastinate when getting new safety stickers, but Rochelle couldn’t take the risk.

Money, of course, is the real problem. Legitimate repair shops want $100 to run the computer check plus the repair cost, which had been estimated at between $200-$400. Last week Rochelle thought she had circumvented the problem and had paid a man $75 for what turned out to be a fake sticker. She knew it was illegal but thought it would be a real sticker. It wasn’t. Now she is trying to sell this sticker to her uncle.

Rochelle’s life is precarious at best. Currently she has a job and has been promoted twice, but keeping the job requires her children to be cared for and her car to be working. When something goes wrong with her mother or her car, Rochelle is in choppy waters again. A higher income could buy her childcare and car repairs. She is now earning more than she ever has, but it is still not enough. Children are very expensive Rochelle has discovered. She wasn’t able to learn that growing up in generational poverty.

A Test for American Progress

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt.

images I found this quote at the beginning of the book One Nation Underprivileged:  Why American Poverty Affects Us All, by Mark R. Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis.  The book looks good and I’ve ordered it, but the quote has stuck in my mind.  Despite its enormous wealth, the United States seems unable to come together to find solutions to poverty in The United States.  Frankly I don’t know what to say to Rochelle when she wonders how to keep working when childcare has been taken from her by government budget cuts.  I don’t know where to tell her to turn.  Here is a young woman trying to do everything right after some  past mistakes and yet she seems never to be able to get ahead for long.  What a waste for our country.  Not only is a hard working person finding it almost impossible to get ahead; the effects on the next generation will be a continuation of this culture of poverty.  How stupid can we, as a people, be?

One Step Forward, Then Two Steps Back

“My food stamps went down and my rent went up,” Rochelle told me with a sigh two days ago.  Due to government budget cuts everyone’s food stamps, now called SNAP, went down.  She called me this morning and said her kids came back from school with a note yesterday saying that, due to government budget cuts, the grant that provided for her children’s afterschool care had been cut; there would be no more care after December 15th.  She said she had cried all night.  “What am I going to do?”  I had no answer.

Blogging About Poverty

UnknownIt has now been slightly over a year since I started doing weekly interviews with Rochelle, and I’m feeling a little blogged out.   I don’t “get” blogging, actually.  People who go on and on about their routine lives seem pretty boring to me; reporting day to day activities just isn’t very interesting.  I had to opt out of a friend’s blog for that exact reason.  I have good friends; we discuss our lives when we get together, but we usually don’t discuss them on a weekly basis.  The question, then, becomes what to do now?  Rochelle is still only working part-time at the grocery store, and even should the job become full-time, poverty will remain what constantly causes Rochelle to live from crisis to crisis. I have interviewed her for about 60 hours.  We have covered a lot of subjects.  Those who have read all posts should understand how difficult day-to-day living is for Rochelle.  So as the second year of interviews begins, I will be working at discovering new themes and new strategies for exploring Rochelle’s world and its implications.

Last week we had only a short interview.  In thirty minutes I discovered her elder sister is now caring for a year and a half old child who is unwanted by a relative.  This sister has five of her own children and got pregnant at 13.  She has had a long and stable job, recently divorced her husband, but by no means has much money.  This, of course, is what the culture of poverty is all about.  Rochelle’s disabled mother moved back in with Rochelle full time to care for this baby while Shondelle, Rochelle’s sister, is at work.  Rochelle is surrounded by the problems poverty brings.  It is hard to be hopeful for Rochelle’s children; their role models are their aunts, their cousins, their grandmother, and their neighbors.   All of them are all in the same boat of hand-to-mouth poverty.

During last week’s interview I gave Rochelle a globe.  It was a gift from Jessie, my anthropologist sister, who is the reason for these interviews.  Kalinda, Rochelle’s eldest daughter, had done poorly on a social studies test.  The test required that she place continents on a map, among other things.  Jessie thought a globe would be useful and sent it.  Rochelle’s eyes just lit up when I gave it to her.  “I’ve never had a globe,” she said.  I showed her where some countries were and said it should help her kids learn about the world.  I grew up with a family globe and know I was always looking at it.  “You know I’ve never been out of the state,” Rochelle said.  “Do you think some time, when I’ve saved up some money, you could take me and the kids on a trip somewhere?”  It had already occurred to me to try to do that.  I’m not yet sure how or when, however.  “That would be a good idea,” I replied.  Then I felt very sad; she had sounded so wistful when she asked me the question.

So the blog will keep blogging, because the world of poverty keeps on grinding its inhabitants.  I am afraid that in this blog we are mostly preaching to the choir, something that is probably true of all blogs.  But with luck some readers are becoming more aware of what a huge trap poverty can be for those who have never lived in any other circumstances.  And perhaps gaining a better appreciation of the texture of lives stunted by poverty will inspire us all to do our part in the struggle against it.

 

 

Can Anything Fix the Problem?

images-3It’s Jessie again, for the final installment of The Marriage Problem.  I don’t think marriage is going to make a triumphal return.  I believe it will become increasingly restricted to some conservative religious communities and to people of privilege.  In my experience, more women than men would like to marry, but many men, especially young men, and especially those of low income and social status, resolutely avoid it.  So how can we make the Marriage Problem less devastating fpr impoverished, extranuptial families like Rochelle’s?  It will take an attack on two fronts.  First, there needs to be a revolution in the American approach to social services and support for the poor, with specific attention to female headed households.  And second, the expectations and education of girls and women need to change radically.  I think the same is true of boys and men, but the truth is that they are a lot harder to reach psychologically on these issues.  And in fact, we know much less about them.  Unfortunately, few unmarried fathers are willing to talk to female researchers about the subject (I’ve had no success), and very few male researchers seem very interested in doing one-on-one interviews with unmarried fathers.

 We have already discussed the two-track organization of American marriage and childbirth: elite women get married and then have children; lower status women are much less likely to get married and much more likely to have children without husbands.  And yet it is elites who make the laws and establish the policies and regulations that to a great extent determine the well-being of impoverished households.  In general, elites are culturally conservative.  That is, they tend to maintain old traditions, mostly because they have prospered from them.  They are not always aware of this motivation.  Mostly, they just believe that the ways of the ancestors are good merely because they have been around for so long.  They are seldom aware of how differently other people may be living, and how much their lives and expectations may diverge from their own. Like most people, they also often resent the idea that they might have to provide economic support for cultural practices that they see as not “following the rules.”  This is particularly true in the United States, which is extremely culturally conservative. In Sweden, social policy provides a modest but adequate standard of living for extranuptial households, on the grounds that comfortable families will produce better educated, more successful, and less alienated members of the next generation.  American social policy has another goal.  US policies tend to be guided by the notion that extranuptial households are the result of activity that ranges somewhere between sin and folly, and that they should not be rewarded for their mistakes.  Although moral judgement is consciously and specifically directed at the unmarried mothers, it inevitably also affects the children in pretty terrible ways.  And the money that is saved by not providing comfortable lives for these female-headed households is more than made up for by the costs associated with the health, educational, unemployment, and often criminal justice problems associated with the children of poverty.  Americans tend to prefer to pay for poverty on the installment plan, without recognizing the high cost of credit.

Clearly, American federal and state governments need to increase support for poor families, most of which are headed by unmarried women like Rochelle.  And perhaps the single most important element of this increased support should be free and affordable childcare, the lack of which is the greatest barrier to improved education and employment for single mothers. These improvements will lead inevitably to generally better lives for all the members of extranuptial families.

Then there are the expectations of life that American culture and institutions build into the upbringing and education of children, especially of girls.  Despite vast evidence to the contrary, even in their own lives, many girls develop the assumption that they will be supported by men.  They do not understand that the majority of all American women, including mothers of small children, now work, and that increasingly they are the sole support, not only of themselves, but also of their children.  Sometimes, girls don’t even think about where their support, or that of their children, will come from.  I have asked many single mothers about this, and most of them have told me that they had never thought about it.  They just figured their lives would go on as they always had, working at low paying, mostly fast food jobs.  They didn’t think about who would take care of their children.

Finally, there is a widespread lack of understanding about birth control.  Few young men will use condoms, though they are easily available.  Girls and inexperienced women often don’t know where to go for oral contraceptives, or they are too embarrassed to investigate.  Rochelle’s prescription for oral contraceptives expired, and she couldn’t afford the required new exam. Some girls may even believe they can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex.  Or they just want to please their boyfriends and continue the relationship so much that they refuse to think about contraception.

It seems essential to me that the schools need to do two things immediately.  First, they need to introduce and maintain the idea that all people, males and females, will work outside the household, so they need to prepare for this work.  It is not an alternative to motherhood, or an optional pathway for women; it is a universal reality.  And second, the schools need to make sex education universal, concrete, and specific, and include practical information about birth control and how to obtain it.  The preaching of abstinence is merely a prescription for pregnancy.

So now my soliloquy on the Marriage Problemis over.  I’ll post again before too long.

Rochelle and the Movie The Butler

a7bb21a8e4abc30bf1684ed072af5605“I don’t see why people are upset that Paula Deen used the “N” word,” Rochelle remarked when she arrived for a recent interview.  “Black people use it all the time.”  I knew that, but it seemed to me that maybe Rochelle was too young and too uninformed to understand how that word had been used against her race years ago; how it is still used in that way by some.  There is a 38 year difference in our ages; we are of different races; we grew up in very different parts of the country in very different circumstances.  I was not sure my explanation would succeed in getting Rochelle to understand why some people were turning against Paula Deen.  I didn’t think Rochelle watched cooking shows, but she does occasionally watch the news.  Her television is always on in the living room, and Paula Deen’s troubles were all over the news programs and talk shows.

The movie The Butler was also all over the talk shows.  I asked Rochelle if she had heard about it and suggested we go see it the following week.  She would, of course, need to make sure her children were cared for.  As a single mother who has child care problems, going to the movies requires some serious planning.  She had not been to a movie theater in over 6 years, and it had been about that long for me, as well.  It was also not the kind of movie Rochelle usually watches when she rents DVDs. The Butler had received both good and bad reviews, but it does shows race relations in the United States through the somewhat fictionalized story of a Black man who had served as head butler in the White House during six presidential administrations.  It ends with Barack Obama being elected President of the United States.  Rochelle registered as a voter in 2008, and she has now voted twice for Barack Obama.  During both of his elections she was watching the news and asking questions. She hasn’t yet voted for anything except the office of President, but it is a start.  Not only might the movie explain something that I was finding difficult to explain, but it would be fun and time away from responsibilities

Scheduling the movie was tricky.  It was the beginning of the month, and Rochelle had responsibilities to her grandfather.  He has no car and needs to be driven to pay bills and buy groceries.  Her mother lives in another town but does come in for medical treatment and sometimes stays with the children after school; permanent after school care had not been settled yet.  Rochelle, of course, works at the grocery store.  She found a neighbor to care for the children for an hour, and then her mother could take over while we went to the movies one day the next week.  It was a Tuesday afternoon, and there were about 10 people in the theater.  The main female character, the wife of the butler, is played by Oprah Winfrey.  Rochelle was quite familiar with her.

I couldn’t tell if Rochelle was enjoying the movie while we watched it, but when the lights came up I noticed she had been crying.  I had, too, but was trying to hide it for some reason.  “I loved it,” she exclaimed.  “I want to buy this movie and not just bootleg it.”  Throughout the movie she would lean over and ask me “who’s the president now?”  The movie did put a cut-line in every time there was a change in administration, but it was easy to miss.  Rochelle’s next question was always “was he a Democrat?”

Rochelle had never heard of the Freedom Riders; she didn’t know white people had also fought for the rights of African Americans; she didn’t know about the sit-ins; she didn’t know about the Black Power movement; and she didn’t know that a President of the United States from her state of Texas had engineered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I am the age of her grandmother and started college in 1964.  Her grandmother and her mother were enmeshed in the continuing cycle of the culture of poverty and were mostly just trying to survive in 1964.  They didn’t vote then, and they still don’t today.  They lived on the Black side of a segregated town regardless of what city they lived in. They still do.  Life probably changed very little for them in 1964.  I came to this formerly Confederate state in 1969, and Black customers were still coming in the “colored” door of a BBQ joint I went to while the white customers were using the “white” door.  Not much had changed but the law.

“Do you see why the “N” word caused Paula Deen problems?” I asked Rochelle.  “Nigger was used by bigoted people.  People who were not happy to see integration happen.  White people who were not pleased to see Blacks get their rights and their vote.  Did you see the hate on the faces of the white people in the movie during the sit-ins?”  I asked.  “Yes,” she said.  I then told her something I had heard Oprah Winfrey say when asked why she didn’t like even Black people using the word among themselves or in rap songs.  “It was the last word many African-Americans heard when the rope was being tied around their necks,” Oprah had answered.

We drove back to Rochelle’s apartment.  “I’m going to buy it when it comes out,” she said again.  “I’m going to show it to my kids.”  I suggested they were too young now but might enjoy seeing it when they got a bit older.  “Wow, I never knew all that, but now I get it,” she said as she got out of the car.  For me, it was not a great movie.  Quite confusing at times, with too much history jammed into two hours.  Rochelle, however, loved it and now understood a lot more.  It was a very enjoyable afternoon for both of us.

The Back to School Stresses of Poverty

UnknownMost parents look forward to school starting as the summer winds down.  Most children look forward to it, as well.  Summer was long; the working parents had to find some way to care for the children; children who had been eligible for free meals at school now had to be fed at home; and most kids started missing their school friends.  But, though everyone seems to look forward to the start of school year, there are major expenses that come with it, as well.  Not only may new clothes be needed, but now parents seem required to supply quite a lot of the school supplies out of their own pockets.  My sister Jessie and I remember that our parents were required to buy almost no school supplies.  Sure, we needed binders then, not backpacks, but that’s all we remember our parents needed to purchase.  Maybe our town or our time was different; I don’t know, but now, in the city I live in, back-to-school supplies are a significant expense.  Rochelle is stressed out because of it.  The cost of supplies for three children is significant.

“I don’t get paid until Thursday,” she told me on the phone. “I was wondering if I could have an advance on my interview money?”  My anthropologist sister, Jessie, pays her for the interviews she does with me, and Rochelle was to receive more money in a week.  “I need to buy school supplies, but I just had to buy two tires,” she explained when we discussed the problem.  School was starting in less than a week.  Rochelle was looking for organizations that provided free school supplies for her children, but this year she also had to buy school uniforms for Kalinda, who was beginning middle school.   Any expense beyond the basic ones puts Rochelle into financial trouble.  The car tires had put her over the edge.   Two weeks earlier she had mentioned to me that she was “out of money.”  The apartment had wanted payment on a late water bill and also charged her late fees, another unexpected expense she hadn’t been prepared for.  I agreed to advance her the interview money this time.  It would only be for a few days.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about how we have talked about planning for the future,” Rochelle told me in our interview later that day.  “Next summer I need to get the kids into some sort of camp or something.  They can’t just be watching T.V. at their grandmother’s and eating all summer long,” she said.  “And I still need to write a resume.”  This was the first time I had ever heard her talk about future needs and plans.  I agreed.  Free summer camps are available, but research and advance planning will be required if that is to happen by next summer.  Rochelle is enjoying her new job, but she wants to advance.  She has always wanted to work for the state of Texas and has noticed that all state jobs want applicants to e-mail a resume.  A resume on hand would enable Rochelle to apply for an available position if she finds one.  She may want to stay with the grocery store if she can advance, but she now wants some options.  “I’m getting older,” she told me, “I have to think about the future.”  I also suggested a savings account of sorts.  “If you started taking a water bottle to work instead of buying water, you could put that money into a savings account and it would add up over a year’s time,” I said.  “Yeah, that would be easy,” Rochelle agreed.  It was a modest suggestion, but she liked it.

School starts in two days, but Rochelle and I hadn’t even discussed upcoming child care solutions during this interview.  She thinks the two younger children will be able to stay at their school until 6:00, if she gets in line early enough when the sign up happens next week.  But, though we have been talking about the problem for a few months, she is not sure how care will be provided for Kalinda, who will be going to middle school. “I’ll figure something out,” she said.  I handed her a list of programs I thought were available at that school.  We had talked about it before, but Kalinda was not eligible for some of the programs.  Childcare, work schedules, school supplies, these are all stressors most parents face, but with the additional stress of poverty they can become overwhelming.  Rochelle will get through this situation, but I still cross my fingers.  So does she.

I