The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Q: I am the mom of two small children, 2 and 3 years old. Their father left us six months ago and I am not sure that I am going to make it either emotionally or financially. Can your experts help me?
A: You are in a difficult situation and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But you can get through this, the Help for Families panel says.
You need to prioritize and focus on taking care of your basic needs such as food, shelter and providing for your children, says panelist Latif Matt.
Reach out to your family and relatives, and be open to help, Matt says.
“Stretch your income,” says panelist Marcie Lightwood. “You don’t need anything new.”
Lightwood suggests you consider buying hand-me-downs, exploring thrift shops and http://www.freecycle.org, and checking with local food pantries. You also may find support through your church or synagogue.
Contact your county assistance office to find out how to apply for public assistance and food stamps (now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). Contact your local housing authority and get on the list for subsidized public housing.
Apply for CHIP for your children. CHIP is Pennsylvania’s program to provide health insurance to all uninsured children and teens who are not eligible for or enrolled in medical assistance.
“As thin as our society is stretched, it does have a safety net,” says panelist Bill Vogler.
You need to keep your emotions in check while you figure out what you’re going to do, says panelist Joanne Nigito-Raftas.
“You have to get in a place emotionally where you’re taking care of yourself,” she says. “You can’t look to someone else to take care of you. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s overcoming fear.”
“When you’re depressed, it’s easy to withdraw,” agrees panelist Rochelle Freedman.
If you haven’t already, apply for child support from your husband, Vogler says.
“The father is responsible to help care for the children,” he says. “Don’t let him or anyone else talk you out of it. You need to do it.”
Consider getting yourself counseling, Nigito-Raftas says.
“You need somebody to sit down with you and talk it through to help you navigate your choices,” she says. “You can be a victim and not move forward, or step by step get yourself through this. Pick one thing to start and do one thing at a time.”
It’s a sign of strength to get help, adds panelist Denise Continenza.
Look into support groups such as Parents Without Partners, a national organization. Find information at http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org. Project Child also offers parent supports groups.
Look for a job and possibly talk to a job coach. Information about jobs and resources are available through Career Link at http://www.careerlinklehighvalley.org. Find out about subsidized child care through the state Child Care Information Services.
“This crisis may become an opportunity for you to be more self-sustaining,” Vogler says.