I remember finding out that I was about to become a mother. I felt fear take hold of me. My brain stopped. I remember crying, but I had no tears. I remember trying to run, but couldn’t move.
No one had prepared me for motherhood – my own mother abandoned me when I was not even 2 years old. The father of my child was violently abusive. My life was unstable and I was afraid that another human being would depend on me.
Things are so much better now. My son, Caleb, is entering kindergarten and he is the light of my life. We’ve been through so much together, but we’re doing it.
One thing that helps more than words can express is the expanded new child tax credit. Adopted as part of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief program, it puts money in our bank account – and the bank accounts of almost every parent in this country.
This credit is on track to lift half of all children living in poverty, including mine. This will help them lead safer and happier lives into adulthood.
My own early childhood was filled with trauma.
After our mother left us, my father had to take care of all of us children. He did his best, but he didn’t know how to access social services for us. When he got sick, we lost everything. We ended up living in a tent “village” under a bridge, where I had to cook for 50 people for the next seven years.
I was just a child.
I was afraid of people in the streets, of students at school, even of being with others where I lived. When I took action and skipped school, I was put in juvenile detention for truancy. The years that followed saw cycle after cycle of abuse, instability and trauma.
But eventually I found help. When I was 18 and on the run, I found a job at a homeless shelter called Covenant House and moved in. They helped me get ID and taught me about social services and how to get them.
I didn’t know there was help available for someone like me. I became a team leader there and my life began to change. Now I’m an advocate for a nonprofit called RESULTS, which trains and helps people fight for policies that help families like mine survive and thrive.
Along the way, I learned something really important: Many of us who grew up in abusive situations just don’t have access to mental health services, so we end up in abusive relationships. adulthood. And many others who experience the trauma of poverty simply don’t know how to get help.
Before the COVID-19 relief program, I would never have been able to access the child tax credit – I was just too poor. And complex paperwork and bureaucratic requirements also put other help out of reach.
But now families like mine, and all other families with children, are receiving life-changing assistance right in their bank accounts. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes.
Thanks to the Child Tax Credit, Caleb will not suffer the tremendous trauma I suffered as a child. His life will be better. He will have the love and economic support he needs to thrive.
We are the richest nation in the world, but too often we have abandoned our poorest children, like my mother abandoned me. But if we have the political will, we can make smarter economic choices like these to give all children a safe and secure childhood.
Not only will Caleb prosper, but we in society as a whole will.
La’Shon Marshall lives in the Detroit metro area and is a poverty advocate with the RESULTS Educational Fund. This editorial was distributed by OtherWords.org.