No Place Like Home
When Ashley's 4-year-old daughter, Jerzi, says, “I want to go home,” she isn’t talking about the apartment she shares with her mother and three siblings. Instead, she’s talking about the Family Care cottage where she lived for two years. And, in a way, Ashley feels the same.
“It was very hard leaving,” Ashley admits.
Despite having dreams of living in her own place, Ashley admits that her years in the Family Care Program at Texas Baptist Children’s Home were formative for her life and for her faith.
“That place truly helped me,” Ashley says of the Program. “I paid off my debts, found a direction and strengthened my faith. Now, whenever I meet someone new, I tell them about Family Care.”
At age 24, Ashley arrived in Austin with four children, no money and no direction. After living for a short time with her family, Ashley felt compelled to find her own path.
“I just didn’t want other people to be responsible for me,” Ashley said. “I wanted to stand on my own.”
She heard about Family Care through a friend and applied that same day. Before long, she was placed in a cottage with other women going through similar struggles. Soon, says Ashley, the moms formed a sort of sorority, holding informal “meetings” at night after kids were in bed.
“We’d stay up late and talk about our problems and give each other advice,” Ashley said. “I miss that a lot. It was nice to have someone else to talk to that understood what you were going through.”
Despite not having a job when she entered the program, Ashley soon found work as a receptionist, where she has been for two years. Her ultimate goal, however, was to go to school.
“I couldn’t go to school at night because of the curfew at Family Care, so I focused on working,” said Ashley. “Then when I got my own place, I started attending night classes.”
Moms living in one of the eight Family Care cottages on the TBCH campus are responsible for their own childcare, and must either be full time students or be working. Family Care clients receive job training, counseling and financial guidance while in the program. Once out of care, moms may still participate in counseling and other programs, such as the commissary that provides food, clothing and furnishings.
After leaving Family Care earlier this year, Ashley is living on her own while she studies radiology. She is working toward her associate’s degree and plans to continue her education after graduation.
While she is thrilled to be accomplishing some of her dreams, she misses the late-night conversations and ever-present support provided by her Case Manager.
“But, I still call her,” said Ashley. “We go to the same church, so I get to see her a lot. Family Care never really leaves you.”
Still, when her four children, Jaden, 8, twins Zyon and Lyla, 6, and Jerzi, 4, are asleep and the apartment is suddenly quiet, Ashley feels a pang of nostalgia for the women she shared so many laughs and tears with.
“These people have been there for me through all my struggles,” Ashley said. “They guided me to where I needed to go. “
If there is one lesson Ashley felt she learned from the other single mothers and the Family Care staff, it’s not to let anything stop you.
“Believe in yourself,” she said adamantly. “Don’t doubt yourself because anything is possible. I learned that at Family Care.”