I understand the idea of wanting upward mobility but to go from welfare to even middle class is a task that is not for the faint of heart. I remember being in line to register for State Support after we lost everything. It was the most humiliating experience of my life.
I was 3 months pregnant, needing to get health insurance for my children. I drove down to Bridgeport and filled out the application. Me, someone with her children in private school, wife of a business owner, living in Trumbull. Was I elitist? Probably.
It was one of the most degrading experiences of my life. I walked into this building that was dark and depressing in a not so nice area of town. I walk into the building to find the social services offices and the security guard tells me where to go like I am a piece of dirt.
‘ It’s through those doors right in front of you. ‘ he said.
I mustered up as much dignity as I could and walked through a pair of dirty double doors. The maintenance guys hadn’t been there yet so it smelled of decay and there was dirt smeared across the door at child height. I felt like one of those streaks of dirt crawling into that room.
In contrast the room on the other side was relatively neat. I filled out the paperwork, which took about 30 minutes, with kids crying and playing around me. I was the only one over the age of 25. I got called into my case worker’s office which is about 4×6 in size. The woman who was there before me smelled. Cigarettes, alcohol, dirty body.
The case worker barely looked at me and asked, ‘Are you in the right place, honey?’
I assured her I was. She looked over my paperwork and asked for my tax returns. I didn’t have them with me, partially because they hadn’t been done but I offered to fax what I had. That’s good enough. I was going to have insurance starting January first. Then the woman looked at me and asked me if I knew what the children should be eating. That they need to have vegetables every day and that they should be drinking milk. She began advising me on how to discipline my children without hitting them and that I was required to take classes how to raise my children and how to feed them. I’m a doctor and I could teach these classes but I had to take these classes. Okay, that’s fine I said. I just said yes to everything they said. I was defeated. Keep my eye on the prize I was going to have insurance. And I walked out in shock.
I never did take those classes, I had to draw the line somewhere. How do you fight against that to climb up? I can tell you it is not even remotely easy.