Before my son came home from foster care, I lived in supportive housing for almost a year. My program helped me with practical things, like learning the NYC buses and trains. But the main thing they helped me with was not isolating myself.
When I was younger, I didn’t know positive ways of handling my emotions. When I felt too sad, afraid, lonely or angry, I would do whatever I could to escape those feelings. I’d keep myself isolated, too. But my loneliness only made me more depressed, and my depression made me even lonelier.
I truly started to improve when I became willing to accept help, after my children were placed in foster care. In therapy, I learned better ways to express my emotions. I started feeling good about myself as I noticed positive changes.
When I first moved into supportive housing, it wasn’t easy for me to open up to new friends.
I was afraid that people I didn’t know wouldn’t like me and I wouldn’t like them. One time, when my program went to Great Adventure, I tried to partner with the counselor. But my program convinced me to go on the rides with three other women. We had fun, and I learned that we had a lot of the same problems, we’d come from the same kinds of homes, and we’d all been in shelters and on the streets. I could see that we weren’t that different from each other.
When we went to the arcade, I bought tokens so we could all play. It felt great to share what I had with them, because I know what it’s like not to have much.
Not everyone in my program was easy to be around. I didn’t talk to one of the women I shared an apartment with, because no matter what anyone said to her she’d get loud and yell and scream. It got scary sometimes.
But the other woman in my apartment was there for me. We’d watch movies together and sometimes she’d help me out when I was low on food. She even understood if I needed to be left alone. She became like family, and that’s important to me, because my family’s not always there for me.
Parenting With Support
When I was preparing to reunify with my son, I asked whether I could have supportive housing for us as a family.
I wanted it because parenting is a really hard job to do alone. I worried about little things, like what would happen if we both got sick at the same time. I worried about whether I would always be able to comfort Aaron when he missed his foster family and his sister. Plus, if I was having a hard time, having someone to watch Aaron even if only for 10 or 15 minutes so I could clear my head would really be a big help.
I looked for supportive housing for about a year. But a lot of places either wanted young mothers who had just aged out of foster care or mothers with a history of drug addiction. I didn’t fit the criteria.
Nine months ago, my son and I reunified to a shelter. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s been wonderful seeing how well we’ve done on our own. I feel stronger. I have more patience than I expected. I can deal with anger and anxiety better every day.
But I’ve also continued to search for supportive housing.
As a parent, I know now that it’s OK to have feelings of sadness or anger or fear. But I also know that when I have those feelings, I need to make sure to use a support system. I don’t have too strong a support system yet.
I’m determined to find a place for my son and me. The better I am able to care for myself, the better I can care for him.