Magazine article Public Welfare

American Family Inns at Work: "Elena"

Magazine article Public Welfare

American Family Inns at Work: "Elena"

Article excerpt

E lena" is an 18-year-old single mother with a 2-year-old son, "Ricardo." She has never been married, has never lived independently, and receives public assistance. She is a typical mother residing in an American Family Inn.

Elena has a fractured and unstable past. She was shuffled between her mother and father until age 5, when she was placed in the first of three foster homes because she was being physically abused by her mother. At age 14, Elena moved in with her boyfriend and his parents; at age 16, she dropped out of high school to give birth to her son. Her relationship with her baby's father deteriorated as he increased his drug use; she left with her son and moved back in with her mother until her stepfather forced her to leave.

"I don't want my baby around his father, because he's a crackhead," Elena says. "I won't have Ricardo see that stuff. It's not right."

Elena had no other choice but to enter the shelter system. Prior to arriving at the Clinton Family Inn in Manhattan, Elena had lived in an emergency assistance center, a short-term shelter, and a welfare hotel. The day after she arrived at the Clinton Family Inn, she enrolled in the on-site programs, including the alternative high school, where she is working toward completing her GED; the Child Discovery Center, a licensed daycare center, where her child is being socialized to the norms of education; and the independent-living skills workshops, where she is learning parenting, budgeting, nutrition, and preventing family violence. …

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