I am writing to express my mounting frustration with federal, state, and local help available to low income families.
Let me explain who I am, and what my situation is.
I am a 25 yr old single mom to a 3 and a half year old little girl named Saar (rhymes with car). Saar is considered multi-disabled. She is autistic, visually impaired, and developmentally delayed. Saar is non verbal, and her skills are scattered around the age of a child that would be 12-18 months old. We live in Joppatowne, Md, in Harford County.
Our problems started when my source of childcare (my mother) moved to South Carolina. I was unable to work, as I could not find someone that I could afford, who was willing to care for Saar with her unique set of issues. My mother was my main source of support, and now that she has moved, my daughter and I are on our own.
Besides being a loving and caring grandmother, the reason my mom was qualified to care for my little girl is that she is a former special educator, she taught at Kennedy Krieger's elementary school for several years, until my stepfather became ill.
I have tried the LOCATE service through the state, to try and find childcare that the state would help pay for. I was unable to find someone that could take care of my daughter. The level of care that she needs seems to deter the average day care worker. I understand completely, and do not hold anything against them. The sort of care that she requires is something that I cannot afford even while working, so it makes more sense to stay home.
After several visits to Social Services in Harford County, and filling out the same paperwork several times, I was able to get approved for food stamps, which has been a great help in keeping my daughter and myself fed.
I was shocked to find out that I receive too much child support to qualify for cash assistance, and even if I did qualify for cash assistance, my child support would then be taken by the state if it were an amount less than the cash assistance.
I also have tried to apply for housing assistance. The first time that I tried to apply in Dec. of 2005, the waiting lists for the rental voucher and public housing were so full they were closed. In the spring of this year I was finally able to get on the waiting list, to be told that my situation of me being unable to work because I needed to care for my disabled daughter- did not make my situation a priority. I understand that my daughter and I could be in a worse situation. In fact, I feel we are about to be.
I have tried to search for more affordable housing within the county. I found a few places that were a little less than I am paying now, but they have yearly income requirements that I am not able to meet. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a security deposit as it is.
Between my daughter's child support and her Social Security Disability, I have enough to pay my rent every month. That does not cover gas/electric, phone, car insurance, gas, diapers, toiletries, and other things that are absolutely essential to keeping a household going.
The state of Maryland has something called the Autism Waiver, which will help pay for respite care, equipment, therapies, and many other things an autistic child might need. What the state does not say very publicly, is that the waiver only has 900 spots, and the waiting list is extensive. When Saar was diagnosed at 16 months old, I immediately called to place her on the waiting list for the autism waiver. I was shocked to find her place on the waiting list was at a number over 1,700. A week ago, over two years later, I call to find out that her place on the waiting list has moved up to 470.
I cannot say enough great things about the Harford County Public School system. My time spent with them has been nothing short of wonderful, and at every step of the way, all I find are people that are interested in doing the best they can for my daughter.
I guess what I am trying to convey is my frustration. Federal, state, and county agencies all advertise programs that they have available to help people. What many people don't know is that there are extensive waiting lists, the lists for the programs are temporarily closed, or the requirements for these programs are so strict that only the smallest minority of people qualify. I have contacted what I have understood to be the appropriate agencies for assistance. I have also contacted my state senators, congressmen, and the local media.
I have not been able to work since November 17, 2005. That's when my mother started her plans to move out of state. At the time, I was lucky in that I had some savings. Which got me through until when I received my tax return at the beginning of February. Since then, I have been living on a combination of my tax return, and credit cards. My funds have run out. As of right now, I have about $50 to last me for all of September. And that's with not paying my phone bill, gas/electric, etc.
So, I'm at a loss. I have reached out for help in the available avenues, and seem to be getting nowhere. I thought by contacting you and possibly getting my story out there, people would be more aware of how the system fails people.
I am not looking for a handout. Far from it. I am young, healthy, and an intelligent woman. I want to work. In fact, getting out of my apartment to work for a few hours each day would give me a very much needed break.
I did just send off an application to the Developmental Disability Administration for help, but I don't know how long it will take someone to get back to me, how long the wait is, or if they will even consider my daughter and I in need of or qualifying for services.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.