CalWORKS and Childcare - A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out - Women's Foundation California

My name is Jennifer LaBounty. I am 43 years old and I work as a Program Coordinator for the Cooperative Agencies and Resources for Education (CARE) program at Orange Coast College. I am  a part-time Professor of Psychology teaching at both Santa Ana College and Orange Coast College. Plus I am a blue-eyed blonde who was raised in a middle class family in Orange County, California. Many reading this description above will now have conjured up an image of who they think I am. However, I am going to change that image by adding a couple other facts.

I am a single mother of four children, Kayla (21), Dylan(20), Colby(18) and Blayk (16) and I am a previous CalWORKs (welfare-to-work) recipient. My ex-husband was a drug addict and after the numerous years of emotional abuse the children and I endured, it was time to escape. I did the rehabs, the outpatient services, the sober-living homes. I tried to save my marriage. But, there comes a time when you realize that you cannot “fix” someone else—that you can only “fix” yourself and that it is more important for a child to see one of his/her parents making healthy choices than having them both together making unhealthy choices. That was 11 years ago. Since then, my life has completely changed.

I was making minimum wage just to get by and I had no other support. My ex-husband went missing. I didn’t make enough money for rent and childcare so I couldn’t keep working. I signed up for school and applied for CalWORKs. I felt shameful. That is, until women like Vickie Hay and Lydia Arbizo, at Orange Coast College, told me that I was not getting a hand-out, but a hand-up. I wasn’t going to drain the system . . . because one day I would be making more money and paying more in taxes than I would be without these services. I would also be able to think critically and help my children to do so. I would be a positive contributing member of society and so would my children. I would have more choices, and I would not be a statistic in some sad discussion about single parents!

Not, only was I able to succeed, I was able to carry a cumulative GPA of a 3.97 through my Master’s Program. I know first-hand the changing power of an education. I was able to raise four amazing kids who also value education (with two in college and one who begins in fall—the other will be a high school senior). In addition to paying taxes, I give back in other ways to my community. I volunteer and I give other people the opportunities that were given me. I would not be as successful today if it weren’t for the supportive services I was able to utilize such as CalWORKS, Extended Opportunity Programs and Service (EOPS)/CARE and subsidized childcare programs.

I believe in the supportive service programs that are given to those people who have no access, no help, and no hope! Not everyone “chooses” their situations – sometimes difficult things happen in life and decisions are made for us. However, we must respond to those decisions and thank God there were programs in place that help us keep and achieve our dreams. These programs change lives forever. Remember, the community chain is only as strong as its weakest link! It benefits us all to support the education and empowerment of the people who live in our communities.

Read related stories:

CalWORKS and Childcare — A road out of poverty

Stand with women like Magali Sanchez Hall

Why losing childcare means losing hope

Invest in Cal Grants, invest in tomorrow

Stand with women like Jennifer.  Subsidized child care, CalWORKS and Cal Grants have been cut enough. Tell the legislature to come up with wise revenue solutions, and NOT balance the budget on the backs of women and children. Click here to send your letter.

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