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One Mom's Sequester Nightmare

The sequester is set to hit in the blink of an eye, and I'm certain families like mine all over this nation are bracing themselves as if to prepare for a financial hurricane. Raising and educating a child with special needs can be costly, and if it were not for specific education funding from the federal and state levels, many of these services would be completely out of reach. California is set to lose $69 million currently designated to educate those with disabilities. This means a long list of therapies that make the lives of these children and their families productive will vanish.

Due to state budget cuts, my son’s early education program shut its doors for good last year. The program was designed specifically for low-income families who could not otherwise afford child care or early education services. For months I spoke with other low-income parents like myself; they were worried about their jobs as well as the future of their child’s care and education. As federal budgets are slashed, programs like my son’s could essentially disappear.

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I know the face of poverty very well. I have become closely acquainted with the beast since giving birth to a child with special needs and divorcing. State and federal assistance have kept me afloat the past couple of years as I’ve worked to redefine parenthood, being a woman, and being a citizen of a nation so divided and ashamed of people like me.

In an effort to get a better understanding of the closeted issue of poverty in our country, (and admittedly, to help me decide whether I might want to run for office), I recently attended the Sister Giant Conference in Los Angeles, led by renowned writer Marianne Williamson. Sister Giant aims to mobilize women who are progressive thinkers to actively participate in our government.

The journey out of poverty has been filled with booby traps.

The face our nation portrays as impoverished has historically looked like mine—that of a single black woman, giving birth to babies for whom she cannot provide. Williamson calls this experience the shadow side of poverty, not to be ignored, but also not to be seen as the totality of a group of people. The women of Sister Giant are called to awaken, and to bring love to such cultural divides. In my brief time sitting with Williamson, she spoke of honoring one’s race and gender. I hear that as a call to stand as a black American woman who is also a single parent, and to simply face within myself the shadow and the light.

One thing I have learned from the past few years of my life is that poverty is no easy beast to kill. I have experienced poverty like a maze, where each turn leads back into the belly of the monster. One extended illness, car accident or school closure can have disastrous consequences. The journey out of poverty has been filled with booby traps, and I have made calculated lifestyle changes, with tempered success, to move my son and myself forward. If poverty is so daunting for me, someone who is educated and surrounded by loving family and friends, I can’t imagine how it must be for the hundreds of women I’ve stood in line with while waiting for their turn at social service offices.

As budget cuts swarm about on the state and federal levels, we are quickly approaching a doomsday for families like mine. Electing more progressive women to the state and federal legislatures can give us the power to change the direction of poverty in this nation.

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