Helping Single Moms Succeed
The Story of My Daughter in Love
At WFCO, we support and celebrate hard-working single moms creating more prosperous futures for their families. When single moms thrive, they can invest more in their children. Then we all benefit from the full blossoming of two generations’ strengths and gifts.
Single moms must climb multiple barriers, including unaffordable child care or inadequate health insurance, on the path to economic security. Research from our partner the Colorado Children’s Campaign shows that children living in families headed by single moms are 2.4 times more likely to live in poverty than children living in families headed by single dads.
During my years as a single mom, I was the grateful recipient of support from a village of diverse women and men who stood by me. I’m proud to be part of a village supporting other single moms, both women that I haven’t yet met who participate in our grantee partners’ programs across the state, and women dear to my heart. These strong women inspire me each day.
My grandson’s mother, Bree, whom I call my “daughter-in-love,” is one of these women. She’s given me permission to share her story.
Two months after graduating from high school, Bree discovered she was pregnant.
“I was surprised and scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” she says.
Bree had a loving family and the benefit of Medicaid coverage during and after her pregnancy, but she recognized that she had a long road ahead of her. Securing a position that paid enough for rent, child care, and diapers would be nearly impossible. She needed more than a high school diploma to earn a living wage. Bree considered going to school to be a nurse, but knew she couldn’t afford both full-time classes and child care.
Bree created a new plan to build a stable future for herself and her son, JoJo. For many reasons, the journey has been very complicated for JoJo’s mother and his father – my son. There was no easy fix. For eleven years, I have been part of Bree’s village of support, offering guidance, assistance, and always believing in her.
One step forward, two steps back
When JoJo was six months old, Bree left him in her sister’s care while she earned medical coding certifications, walking through a door to opportunity opened by my extended village. I joined with Bree’s family offering child care and other support and watched JoJo on weekends. With her job training, she found a job, and she and JoJo moved into their first apartment. Bree used my mother’s furniture to outfit her new home.
It was a struggle, but one Bree wanted to do on her own as much as possible. Rent kept rising faster than wages. An employer promised Bree a raise and didn’t deliver. Like so many single moms, every time she took one step forward, something else set her back two. But Bree maintained her focus on advancing in her career and earning a higher wage.
“I kept pushing forward and didn’t let barriers stop me. I had a rough childhood in some ways. I didn’t want JoJo to experience what I did,” Bree explains.
Maintaining focus, pushing forward
When JoJo was preschool-aged, she enrolled him in a free half-day early childhood program at the Hope Center in Denver, where he thrived. She still didn’t rest, taking classes while working full-time and moving up the career ladder toward self-sufficiency. When JoJo entered elementary school, she’d rush home from work, prepare dinner, help him with his homework, and tuck him in. Once he was safe in bed, she stayed up and studied.
Today, all of Bree’s hard work is paying off. She’s a few months away from graduating with her bachelor’s degree, something that just 2 percent of teen mothers achieve before age 30. She works in human resources at Xcel Energy in a position that offers good benefits and has space for continued advancement. For the first time, Bree feels economically secure. And JoJo, now an excelling fourth-grader whose number one subject is math, sees the difference.
“He saw me really stressed,” Bree explains. “I tried to hold it in, but I would sometimes break down in front of him because I didn’t know how we were going to get by. He’s happier now that he doesn’t see Mommy struggling.”
A village of support
As JoJo’s grandmother, I see the difference, too.
Here’s what Bree writes about her village, one that I am honored to be a part of:
“My mom and Lauren have been by my side supporting me through it all and showing me how to be resilient and strong. My mom is underpaid and works very hard seven days a week to put food on the table. Her work ethic pushed me to do more and overcome any obstacles that were placed in my way. Lauren’s guidance, encouragement, and support have been a blessing.”
Bree inspires me to do work on behalf of the other women in Colorado who seemingly must make their way out of no way. With the support of WFCO’s generous donors, we create an easier way forward for other resilient single moms facing complicated barriers and limited access to opportunity, so that they and their children can thrive.