During the last quarter of 2009, “Shelly”* (Real name not used) was a busy mother caring for her sixteen-year-old son, while working full-time at Mt. Sinai’s Hospital Morgue and attending TCI- College of Technology School to earn an Associate’s Degree in Human Services. To complicate matters, Shelly was having difficulties addressing her son’s behavioral issues and keeping him interested in attending school. After the youth missed 96 days from school, ACS was notified of educational neglect and Shelly was contacted. At that point, she realized that without assistance she could not manage her son’s behavior. Shelly eventually filed in Family Court for A Person In Need of Supervision or “PINS” petition to address her son’s noncompliance with attending school and disrespectful behaviors. The child was allowed to stay in the home as long as he continued to attend school.
Shelly began to miss days at work and school due to obligations with Family Court, child welfare agencies, and the NYC Department of Education evolving around the issuance of the PINS warrant. Even with the PINS supervision that included monthly visits with ACS workers, in place, her son would not stay in school. To make matters worse, she found out that she was pregnant. On the baby’s due date, Shelly was terminated from her job. She noted that, “The only thing that stayed constant, during this period, was that I continued to attend school”.
After losing her job, Shelly acknowledges that her attitude had changed. She felt helpless and began to feel resentful that the Family Court process was only adding undue stress to her situation which led to her neglecting other areas of her life. At some point, the child confided in the ACS workers that his mother abused drugs. ACS ordered a drug test for Shelly that came back positive for substance abuse. At this point, ACS implemented preventive services for the family. For a period of time, Shelly was noncompliant. It was only when ACS authorities discussed placing her baby in care as a safety precaution that she realized that her family situation was truly “at risk”.
Shelly began to comply with ACS and started receiving preventive services at EGSCF. Eventually, Shelly stopped using drugs, and test results began to come back negative. “It took some time to realize that by mandating EGSCF preventive services ACS truly blessed me. I was in denial that I needed help and was not providing my son with the proper home life and stability that he was entitled to receive. Talking to EGSCF workers helped me to accept responsibility for my actions”.
Ironically, at this time, Shelly needed an internship at a social service organization in order to complete her Health Services Associates degree requirements. One day she asked her caseworker for assistance with locating an internship program and was informed that a position was available within the Agency. As a result, Shelly made a conscious decision to prioritize her life.
Shelly’s actions have resulted in a number of successes for the family unit. Her rebellious teenager has grown into a respectful young man. He earned his General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and is currently living in Redding, Pennsylvania, where he is a full-time student in his first year of college, pursuing an architectural degree. Shelly maintains a close and loving relationship with her eldest son, and is the sole caregiver to her seven-year-old son.
Today, Shelly is a full-time employee at the “Agency of Choice” where she utilizes her educational background and personal experiences to advocate on behalf of other “at risk’ families. She also attends Metropolitan College of New York where she is in the process of acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services. She expects to graduate in June, 2012.