People Who Know
Those who support families in great need – parents and children involved in the child welfare system, who are homeless, who are disenfranchised by incarceration or lack of documentation, who are poor and un- or under-educated – these are the people who know firsthand how mothers and fathers struggle to care for their children and how our systems, though large and expensive, aren’t sufficient to the task of breaking the cycles – poverty, adolescent parenting, failure in school, poor health outcomes, and so on. Here’s a note that one of those supporters sent to Maryland Family Network. The author, like me, realizes that public policy advocacy is every bit as important as the services we provide; if we don’t speak out for what’s needed, we’ll never get it. Maryland Family Network’s Public Policy Director, Clinton Macsherry, likes to quote Madonna: “If you want to get what you want, you have to ask for what you want.”
As an immigrant, I came to this country with great expectations on how well the system caters for the needs of children and families. However, as I worked closely with low-income families, I realized the system was not “understanding” of the plight they face on a daily basis. Sitting in my office, holding her beautiful daughter on her lap and with tears in her eyes, she narrated to me her inability to afford milk for her children and how she has been asked too many questions on why she should continue to receive food stamps. This was the story of one of the clients I worked with about five years ago. The sad expression on her face has stuck with me over the years. My inspiration to provide support to at risk families, came from working with abused children in the foster care system as well as with children whose parents were incarcerated who lacked the emotional as well as basic support that would help them realize their goals in life. I am very passionate about at risk children and families and what can be done to help alleviate some of the problems that border on their well-being. With both theoretical, as well as experiential knowledge of the plight of these children, I feel the need to add my voice to any public policy that will address their greatest need of food, clothing, shelter as well as education and medical needs. Currently, I oversee a home-based program that service children and families (mostly undocumented families) and I feel there is much more we can do to help these children who did not choose to be born to “undocumented” families. Watching the video at the Sandra J. Skolnik lecture, gave me such a great inspiration to add my voice to the many voices that speak of the needs of our most vulnerable citizens – children.