Thursday, September 3, 2009

More than One Way to Help

I was pretty excited about starting to work with Ann on a specific goal and then she missed her appointment today. I was a bit disappointed. I've been working with Ann for a little more than a year now. She lives with her boyfriend and a 5 years old daughter. The boyfriend has a mom who's chronically ill so though he lives with Ann he occasionally visits with his mom for a week here and there to help her out. Ann also has a friend's daughter, a teen, who stays with her on occasion (in the last 6 months at least a few days a week) and Ann tries to do what she can to help her with food, clothing, and the like. She has told me that at times she will eat little so that the rest of her family can eat.

My agency has helped out the family financially in several ways over the years (from clothing to rental assistance) since Ann had a couple of case managers before my time. While I know her requests have come from a place of need and I know she has a lot of expenses and generally a lot on her plate as an outsider looking in I see where she lacks some life skills. She has said to me on several occasions that she struggles with managing her money. She's in her mid 20s and has told me that she never learned how to deal with things like paying overdue bills and said she feels she doesn't have life skills to deal with a lot of things life throws at her. And I admire the efforts she has continued to put to provide for her family and the sacrifices she made for them. But it's still hard for me to see her make mistakes that are avoidable. For example, she once came to my office and said she owed a good deal of money to a certain provider. I offered to call the provider to work out a payment plan and Ann said OK. I made the call, a plan was made that Ann said she could follow, but then the following month she still went ahead and paid the entire amount. Since that money was used for the bill, she didn't have enough money for public transportation for herself for half the month. Perhaps she paid the entire amount because she panicked. Maybe she did it because she didn't take the lead with the call and she didn't feel like she owned the resolution of her problem.

It seemed Ann continued to have financial issues because she would occasionally contact my agency for help. She was always grateful and it seemed hard for her to ask for help but because of our own limited resources we weren't always able to help her. At times we weren't able to help I would give her alternative resources but she wouldn't always follow up with them.

While Ann has relied on me for emotional support over the time we've known each other I hoped she would be interested in working with me, anyone, on developing some of these skills that none of us our born with. Certainly not me. I couldn't force her but I encouraged her to work with me on some of the issues she told me she struggled with -- budgeting, making long term goals, developing her independence.

Finally last week it sounded like we were on the same page and Ann said she'd bring bills to our next appointment so we could start sorting them out. That is one area that sounded like it was particularly overwhelming. Then today she didn't show up and when I tried to call the line sounded like it was disconnected. Ann eventually caught up with me and said that she had overslept that morning. We rescheduled the appointment for next week. I hope that this will be a process of us working together on these goals. These are the types of services we offer that I'm especially excited about because it feels like they would make a greater difference in the long run.

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