Chisomo, 18, became pregnant while she was attending secondary school in the city. She returned to the village to have her baby. Her sister Bertha, 20, continues to attend school. Chisomo contemplates her situation.
and then we were four
Linda Laforce has moved around a lot in her life. “This is the most settled I’ve ever felt,” she says of living in Berea. It has been her favorite town so far, even though things have not been easy lately. “I feel like it’s opened its heart, more than any other place has. That’s the one thing with the kids, I want them to stay here.”
Linda married young, had a job and two daughters, both of whom went to college.
“Then it all fell apart,” she said, “and now I have some more babies to raise.”
Linda’s oldest daughter was arrested on drug charges soon after the birth of her first daughter. She has been in and out of jail ever since. She gave birth to twin girls four years ago and tested positive for Meth at the delivery. Custody of the infants was granted to Linda. She took them home that day and has had them ever since.
Linda is able to support her granddaughters with the help from a program called Kinship Care which provides subsidies for caregivers of family members who would otherwise be entered into the foster care system. Linda has permanent custody of the girls, though she has not officially adopted them. That, she said, she would do in a heartbeat, however doing so would mean losing financial support from the state making it impossible for her to care for them. Kinship Care was discontinued in a recent budget cut.
Linda continues to receive the subsidy because her and her family were grandfathered into the system. But she can only imagine what not having this support would mean for some families. “Someone has to protect the little ones,” she said. “You get so tired caring for them day to day- you don’t have the energy to go up to the capital and fight for them.”
“The thing is, when you’re a foster parent- you’re good. But when you’re a grandparent caring for your grandchildren, it becomes about what you did wrong as a parent. It’s not the way we raised our children- why we have our grandchildren now. I’m not the only grandparent raising grandchildren, that’s for sure.”
“I thought my life was getting easier before I got them. I wonder what it would’ve been like if that didn’t happen. I probably would’ve been lonely. Now I don’t have to worry about being lonely.”
Linda hopes more than anything that she’ll live long enough to see the girls become young women. But she knows that that’s unlikely. “That’s the hardest part,” she says, “knowing that they’re going to have a big loss at a young age. I keep pushing them to grow faster and faster cause I’m running out of time.”
After the sudden death of his wife Helen, Eric Bowen finds himself as a single father.
What was once a predominantly white, Irish Catholic, working-class neighborhood is now a racially and ethnically diverse, economically divided area, but the old town spirit remains.