The journey Grace embarked upon from a client of the Department of Economic Security (DES) to an employee was often tumultuous. Her story began in the summer of 2006, when Grace, pregnant and unsure of what resources were available, followed the advice of a friend and went to a DES office for the first time. “I was an 18-year-old soon to be teenage mom with no income,” she said. “I was fresh out of high school and not looking forward to my future.” She was approved for Nutrition and Medical Assistance, and after a few months, was able to obtain employment, supplementing her benefits with enough income to support her daughter. Until 2008, they lived a simple life together.
However, her future changed drastically when she became pregnant for the second time. A happy moment quickly took a turn as her first son was born with air around his lungs, unable to breathe. A helicopter carried her son to a different hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), while Grace laid there, having just given birth and with a strong case of the flu. “Luckily, I had been approved for Medical Assistance. All the costs were covered. One less thing I had to worry about while my son fought for his life in the NICU,” said Grace.
Her son was then healthy enough to go home. At the time, Grace was living with her father. During her time in the hospital, he decided he could no longer support her and her children, and asked them to leave. With her two children, she packed her bags and left.
The next three days, the family lived in their car, until Grace was able to call DES and modify her benefits. DES also connected her with outside resources, and before long, the family found a home and Grace began working a second job. Still receiving supplemental support from DES, they continued on their path. Until, once again, Grace became pregnant and gave birth to another son in the summer of 2009.
At the beginning of 2011, Grace decided she needed to make a change for herself, so she enrolled in college. Working two jobs and attending classes full time proved to be one of the most difficult times in her life, but she quit her weekend job to look for better a better opportunity. She was hired right away.
“At this point, I was still working two jobs and trying to make ends meet. The fact that DES still qualified me was great because those benefits certainly fed my babies and me.”
For the next four years, Grace’s life remained relatively stable until she was laid off. She reached out to DES again and was introduced to Unemployment Insurance. With this support, she was able to sustain her family until she received part-time work with a school district, and, a few months later, DES.
Grace started with the Department as a temp for the Senior Telephone Discount Program. With her income rising and her benefits decreasing, she started to think harder about her future and applied for more permanent work with DES. She was hired in the Payroll department and soon graduated with three Associates degrees and two certificates of completion from the University of Phoenix. Later, Grace moved to the DES Office of Facilities Management, where she was able to reduce her benefits to simply Medical Assistance.
As if the circumstances of her story were not difficult enough, another life circumstance came abruptly when the roommates Grace with sharing her home with decided to leave the apartment, and its high rent, to Grace and her children. This necessitated the need for a higher paying position so she pursued and obtained a position within the DES Office of the Inspector General as a Program Project Specialist. At long last, she was no longer dependent on DES for assistance.
“My journey hasn’t been easy,” said Grace. “I have worked very hard to be where I am today. I am proud to say that my drive came from my three children, who depend on me every day. I thank DES for teaching me and helping me through my rough patches. But I also thank DES for allowing me to excel in my career path and reach my potential.”
By Brett Bezio