As a family eligibility and needs specialist, I play the role of a caseworker, social worker, advocate, and team player for our program as well as for the families. We listen to the stories from families, single mothers that have come from bad experiences and are wanting to start all over again. This is not to say that I have not also met with fathers who have had to take on a great responsibility over their children all on their own. Just this week, I had a family enroll, and the mother had to leave her former home due to violence and start all over again in a different location. However, she still needs to work and feed her kids, provide shelter, drive them to school and the expenses that add on. She never stopped working, however, because of the income guidelines, she did not qualify. She later mentioned that she did have CalWORKs, which I was able to use to qualify her in our program.
I’ve had families leave my office in tears because according to our state or federal guidelines, the family makes too much income, based on gross income. In California, it is rare to find affordable housing and if so, families have to be placed on a lottery system, if not they have to rent a room for a big family or live in garages that are made into studios. I have had single parents who struggle to provide for their kids by having two or more jobs, even weekend jobs, if possible. This income later affects their income eligibility to qualify with our state program. I have heard their stories and I have had people get upset at me because to them, I am the face of “the state”, until I do my best to separate that idea and approach them with sympathy and understanding. We do not promise the families anything, however, we do provide words of comfort by offering them future possibilities of eligibility or guiding them to community resources.
If the state allowed for more toddlers and preschool centers to open up, more families would have less stress in their lives. The families would feel more secure about leaving their children with people they can trust and know that they are in good hands. Families can use their income to pay for better living, food, transportation, and all the other things that they need. With a two year recertification period, families are able to relax without worrying about having to qualify once again. Families worry because they get overtime income or if they get a promotion or a bonus at their job. Some families have had to reduce their salary just to qualify with our state program. So with a two year recertification period, there is a possibility that families can worry less about making a little more income, and be more set up for success in life.
Rocio, Family Eligibility and Need Specialist, Hayward