By A. Hosack, P. Berman, & K. Hecht
We are homeless! I can never go home. What is happening? I am so scared, and Davy just cries!
As the miles go by, Claire begins to calm down. Ms. Alexandra had stopped the car, once they were a mile away from the Caldwell’s home. She had turned to Claire, handing her a box of Kleenex, and told her she had a right to cry. Her parents had not treated her with the love and help she needed as a young mother. Claire could barely hear Ms. Alexandra because she couldn’t stop crying. One of her greatest fears has come true; she was homeless.
Ms. Alexandra wants to soothe Claire’s distress. She asks Claire if she or Davy needs anything? Claire still doesn’t respond so Ms. Alexandra turns her attention back to driving. As Ms. Alexandra turns into the parking lot of her office, Claire has been able to calm down. She also changed Davy’s diaper in the back seat and he too is no longer crying. Ms. Alexandra talks calmly to Claire as she brings them into the building and asks again if there is anything she and her baby needs? Claire doesn’t trust Ms. Alexandra; her dad had taught her that all African-Americans were violent and criminals; they might smile, but this was just a cover for their evil thoughts.
Claire doesn’t think Ms. Alexandra is dangerous but she has never met an African-American before, her dad has and if there is anything he knows a lot about, its violence. Claire figures she is best off saying nothing. This plan is disrupted by her rumbling stomach, which draws an immediate smile out of Ms. Alexandra. When asked if she would like lunch, Claire just nods and follows Ms. Alexandra to a table in the staff lunch room. Ms. Alexandra gets her an orange juice and a turkey sandwich from the refrigerator.
Does this seem like the behavior of a dangerous person?
She notices that Claire almost inhales the food, she eats and drinks it so quickly. Claire begins to wonder why Ms. Alexandra would give her something to eat, if she was planning to harm her? Ms. Alexandra realizes that the day’s events were probably traumatic to Claire. She doesn’t push her to talk, she just makes her a second sandwich and a glass of milk. Claire eats this one quickly too. When she is done, Ms. Alexandra takes her and Davy into a small room with a couch and chairs. She tells her to “sit tight” while she makes a few phone calls. The room is nice and warm and there is a bathroom connected to it. Well-fed for the first time since she left the hospital, Claire can relax enough to feed Davy. He then falls asleep on her shoulder with his head up against her neck. Claire is scared but feels comforted by the feeling of Davy snuggled up against her. How can she care for Davy now that they don’t even have a bed to sleep in?
After about twenty nerve wracking minutes, another mom and baby come into the room. Claire looks down; who is this other mom? The other young mother starts to talk right away, “My name is Nancy, this little sweet heart is my daughter Sara.” Claire looks up at this and glares at the other woman. Claire has found her glare to be her only protection from bullying and harassment at school.
Nancy chuckles and then says, “No need to look at me like I’m a bug you need to squash. I am trying to be friendly. After all, we are two moms with the cutest kids in the world.” Claire is still staring at Nancy with hostility, but her words are beginning to sink in. Claire looks down at a sleeping Davy and Sara; she smiles.
Nancy says softly, “You must be new here. I find the waiting goes by much faster if we talk. I go for help with being a mother with my daughter. My therapist says talking to someone else is kind of like medicine for stress. Life can be so hard. You feel more stressed all by yourself. Sharing it with someone else makes at least a little bit of the stress fall off your back.”
Nancy looks about her age and has a baby too. Should Claire trust Nancy and asks her all the questions she has about Children and Youth?
Nancy had been learning from her therapist about being her own advocate. This meant she had to ask the questions that were on her mind. People might not answer her questions, but she had a right to ask them whether it was in her personal life, to try and be a friend to someone like Claire, her pediatrician to help her be a good mother, or, she could even ask questions at Children and Youth even though she was afraid they would take Sara from her . . . Nancy took a deep breath and said, “Come on, tell me your name . . . please.”
Is Claire going to be an advocate for herself?
Is it safe to ask questions?