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Punished for trying to improve one’s life

Posted on November 15, 2011

This column below speaks volumes about the plight of the working poor, people trying to do everything they can to make their lives better:

Punished for getting my degree


News Date: 11/14/2011
Outlet: Concord Monitor – Online

My Turn
Punished for getting my degree: Enrolled in college, my assistance is cut
I am writing this after much stress and frustration. I am a single mother of two. I live in Concord and have my whole life. I work 40 hours a week at Concord Hospital, and I am also enrolled in post-secondary classes at Southern New Hampshire University. I have about 15 classes left to finish my BS in psychology with a minor in child/adolescent development. I do not ask for much, but raising two children alone is hard.

I have been receiving state assistance for many years because there is no way I could feed, dress and house these two children I love deeply.
I do have a court order for child support of $50 a month, but since I work no one is interested in looking for their father. And since I don’t know where he is, I cannot go back to court and raise the amount.
But the real reason I am writing is to let people know about the injustice within the state Health and Human Services Department. I have been receiving child-care assistance – since I work, my children need to go somewhere after school, during school vacations and, most important, during summer vacation – but the state recently revoked it. When I called the office to find out why, I was told by a supervisor that I cannot receive child-care assistance because I am enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program.
I informed the staff that I do not need the child care assistance for my classes; I need it for when I’m working. It does not matter, they said; I cannot be taking classes to finish a bachelor’s degree program and receive child care assistance.
“So am I supposed to drop out of school so I can have someplace for my children to go while I’m working?” I asked.  I was told “yes.”
What this means to me and my children is they are now going to be latchkey kids every day after school; they will be left home alone during every vacation, including the 2½ months during the summer.
I do not understand how this is fair. I thought the Department of Health and Human Services was supposed to help people get back on their feet so that they do not need assistance. I am not a person to take advantage of the services offered, but I understand why some people do. When the state does everything it can do to keep you down, why bother standing up?
(Kate Lacasse lives in Concord.)

We know that 65% of new jobs will require post-secondary education and that lack of a college degree will increasingly condemn one to a growing underclass.  Governor Lynch has talked about the importance of access and education, even as he cut state grant funds for New Hampshire’s neediest students.  Now, as Kate has discovered, state policies create more hurdles for her as she seeks to complete a degree.  A degree that can be part of a path towards greater self-sufficiency, a better life for her two children, and allow her to be a taxpaying contributor to NH’s future.

SNHU will find a way to provide Kate with the support she needs.  However, the larger structural forces and systems that actually keep the working poor impoverished remain in place even as we help this one student. Kate has given us one more window into the dysfunctional abandonment of our citizenry.  For all the criticism that has been leveled at the OWS movement, Kate might properly echo their core question: “Where is my bailout?”

One thought on “Punished for trying to improve one’s life

  1. Jennifer Wendorf says:

    Wow, what a powerful story! Hang in there Kate!

    Even though I am blessed with a husband who supports me and my three children while I am pursuing my educational goals here, my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what life would be like if I had to be the sole provider for my three children. However, I have been there when it comes to dealing with the red tape of government agencies. My husband was out of work for awhile, which was the main reason I was inspired to go back to school. Really, we just need multiple employment options. Do what ever it takes to pull yourself up. You never know when they might suddenly change all of the rules, and pull the plug for budget reasons. It’s best to have that degree, if there’s any way under the sun that you can get it. We are rooting for you!

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