Social Work: The Road To Redemption
Note: All names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the people involved
"Hey! Hey Slut!" said Charley, 5. Charley continues to repeat himself as he taps and pulls on the legs of Carrie's pants.
and her partner, Miranda, are social workers at a child-care service in
Muncie. They help Charley and his mother, Marcy, 20, get their life in
order. Carrie and Miranda spend nearly every day visiting multiple
houses, working with family's problems ranging from a lack of money and
education to crack-addicted boyfriends.
Carrie began her social
work in January of 2006 and initially she admits she was scared
entering the homes of certain clients. Although, after three months of
work, she isn't afraid "to walk on up into any of those houses."
children at an early age and failing to graduate from high school has
created a disadvantage for Marcy, but she doesn't let that dampen her
spirits, although both Carrie and Miranda hide a deep concern for the
recent changes in Marcy's behavior, appearance and attitude.
living in a government-funded house, Marcy also receives food stamps
and Women, Infants and Children aide from the government.
federally funded program helping out low-income families by providing
the mother with financial assistance, nutritional education and
counseling and referrals to health and social services.
WIC services are provided at schools, hospitals, community centers and
public housing sites. Marcy is lucky to receive WIC funding because the
government does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual
to participate in the program. As Charley continues begging for
Carrie's attention, Marcy explains how the week has caused her stress
and hardship – a seemingly common occurrence in Marcy's life. Carrie
ignores Charley's disrespectful cries for attention.
he's heard that phrase a million times," said Carrie. "He's obviously
heard that coming out of his Mom's mouth and everybody that comes in
and out of that house."
When entering Marcy's house one would
think it's just another modular style house with fresh paint and new
windows. Marcy lives in a Government funded house, but no signs outside
label it as such.
In January, Marcy received a letter from the
government explaining she was one of the few lucky people in Muncie to
begin receiving Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, which will pay
Marcy's rent for many years to come.
On a hot day in July of
2005, Marcy and her children waited in a line of hundreds to sign up
for Section 8 at its offices along South Madison Street.
hundreds of people in Muncie sign up to receive Section 8, less than 10
percent of the people will ever receive the funding. Section 8 chooses
recipients at random and most people wait six to eight months to hear
if their application is accepted.
Once Marcy opened her letter
of acceptance from Section 8, her life began to change for the better.
In early February, Carrie and Miranda helped Marcy find her house. They
visited a few different places, but some wouldn't meet Section 8's
standards for living. Carrie said Marcy seemed very excited about the
After acceptance, recipients usually move to a new
home approved by Section 8. At this point it is their responsibility to
keep screens on the windows at all times, keep the yard clean and have
working smoke detectors on each floor. Section 8 also performs random
visits to make sure the home is up to its high standards of living.
inside the home some of the Section 8 standards aren't being met. The
carpet is swept and a few pictures adorn the smoke-stained walls.
Marcy's three children, Charley, Linda, 3 and Michael, 1, have
scattered their toys across the floor creating a living room resembling
the remains of a plane crash.
Prior to entering the house,
Charlotte and Nancy exchange glances, knowing the adventure ahead of
them. After entering, the pair avoids the children's toys, sit on the
couch and proceed to ask Marcy about the developments in her life.
Marcy names off quite a problems relating mostly to boys and her
friends. The pair look at their clipboards and takes notes regarding
Marcy is a rather candid individual while explaining her
week. While detailing her week, she refers to some of the people in her
life as "assholes" and "bastards." It's obvious she feels comfortable
around the two people who continue to help her, no matter how many
times she fails to answer their phone calls and knockings at the door.
and Miranda don't understand exactly why Marcy chooses to answer her
door some days and not the others. When the pair can contact Marcy she
seems to act like "one of the girls," although the bags under Marcy's
eyes and her neck covered in bruises from an evening of sensual kissing
seem to help answer their questions.
But Marcy's neck is not
their concern. They are there to preserve a good environment for
Marcy's kids, set goals for Marcy and the children's development, and
provide resources for her family like food and childcare.
Americans wouldn't consider Carrie's job to be desirable, but she
wouldn't want to be a part of any other line of work. She says the
reward of knowing she's keeping these family's lives from spinning out
of control like a broken kite provides enough satisfaction.
of her lack of time and a job, Marcy is unable to own a car and take
care of her children. After catching up with Marcy, Carrie and Miranda
offer her a ride to bank and Bed ‘n Britches along West Jackson Street.
Bed ‘n Britches is a service provided by the Open Door Clinic.
At Bed and Britches, mothers can get free supplies for their home.
a great service," Carrie explains. "Because most families don't think
about providing themselves with essentials like toilet paper, soap and
Carrie, Miranda and Marcy share a few laughs
while driving around town and shortly their visit comes to an end after
picking up some fast food for Marcy and her kids.
Marcy off at her house, Carrie and Miranda discuss their meeting. Both
workers express their concern for Marcy and her home.
explained that when Marcy first received approval in the Section 8
program she was excited for the opportunity. The pair helped Marcy find
her house and receive approval of the residence. At that time, Marcy
would always be awake and answer her door as soon as they arrived. The
only people inside the house were Marcy and her two children. All the
screens on her windows were attached and the floor was much easier to
Carrie said Marcy's enthusiasm for her fresh start
continued for about three weeks, but soon things began to unravel.
Carrie recalls visiting Marcy in early March and noticed all the
screens on her windows were hanging off the frames like a person
clutching for life. Beyond the windows, two women and two men filled
the bedrooms and couches, as Marcy would stumble to the door looking
haggard and tired.
When asked who her guests were or why they
were there Marcy seemed indignant about answering the questions. Both
Carrie and Miranda felt awkward about conducting their visit with two
strangers sleeping on the floor, so they tried to keep things brief.
Carrie read Charley a book and Miranda talked with Marcy about Linda's
growth and feeding. The pair felt Marcy was taking advantage of the
opportunity given to her.
After the visit Carrie said, "It's not just like, ‘Here we [the government] give you this money to wreck the place.'"
Carrie and Miranda exited the house Carrie said she looked upstairs and
saw Charley urinating on the carpet in his room while staring at his
penis. Charley noticed Carrie watching him and pulled his mattress over
the urine-covered carpet.
Throughout March, Carrie and Miranda
get to visit with Marcy only a few more times as her willingness to
answer the door becomes spotty, at best.
While visiting another
family who Carrie and Miranda also help, they run into one of Marcy's
good friends, Summer. Summer provides Carrie and Marcy with some
insight about the changes in Marcy's behavior, but the news is less
"Summer said Marcy and her friend April have
been popping Stacker-3s left and right, all the time," Carrie recalled.
"Summer even said Marcy and April have been making Marcy's 15-year-old
cousin watch Marcy's kids when they leave and feel like getting booty
or alcohol so they can have late-night parties all the time."
and Marcy have been friends for years, and Carrie and Miranda trust the
information Summer gave them. While they won't be able to discipline
Marcy for her poor choices, the pair can now focus on things they
should pay attention to the next time they can visit Marcy.
few days later, Carrie and Miranda go to Marcy's for a scheduled visit.
As they arrive, the condition of the yard disgusts them. The children's
toys are all over the yard and pop cans cover the porch like snow.
Marcy, again, fails to answer the door, but while the pair continues
knocking for 15 minutes, Marcy's neighbor comes outside.
neighbor tells the pair that Marcy's kids have been outside most of the
week playing on their own as traffic speeds by the house, and guys walk
in and out of the house at all times of the night. Marcy's neighbor
also explains that the previous night Marcy and April ran around the
neighborhood trying to find Charley who had wondered away from the
house. She said Marcy and April eventually found Charley near the
railroad tracks a few blocks away.
The news from Marcy's neighbor frustrates Carrie and Miranda.
Because the pair hasn't witnessed any of these events, they are unable
to take action. Miranda remains cynical and now feels she never knows
whom to believe.
Nearly three weeks pass until Carrie and Miranda see Marcy again.
visiting Summer last week, Carrie and Miranda saw Marcy. She wasn't
there with her kids and the pair immediately questioned who was
watching the children. Marcy said her cousin was back home watching the
kids, but the pair could sense Marcy was lying.
Marcy's appearance is worse than ever. The bags under her eyes seem
darker and she gained 20 pounds since she last saw her. Her hair was
unkempt, her clothes were dirty, her eyes were glassy and she smelled
Carrie said she tryed to take full advantage of
their chance encounter with Marcy. They questioned her about Charley
and his trip to the railroad tracks, the all-night parties and the
random guys going in and out of the house.
Marcy struggled to
come up with immediate answers, but denied Charley ever got away from
the house and said no one has been visiting. Marcy quickly tried to
change the conversation and began explaining that she might be getting
a job at Ryan's Steakhouse. Although she can't drive, she said planned
on riding the Mits bus to the job.
On their most recent visit,
Marcy finally answered her door. Carrie and Miranda had brought some
tampons, napkins, diapers and deodorant for Marcy from a closet inside
their offices filled with items they often try to bring to the families
Carrie said the house was much cleaner than it had
been the last time they saw her, but the screens were still off the
windows. Carrie and Miranda tried to catch up with what Marcy had been
up to recently, but her answers to their questions were shorter than
ever. Marcy said Ryan's Steakhouse hadn't contacted her yet and Carrie
remains skeptical if she even applied for a job.
Miranda didn't see any signs of drug use or alcohol in the house.
Carrie said if she ever noticed any drugs though she would call Child
"I'd probably wait until I leave [the
house] the call CPS because I don't want them to try and lie," Carrie
said. "It's a serious thing."
© Zack Sampsel 2006