History of #endtheclawback
by Frances Stone – Ms. Recovery Writes
In 2014, I started telling my story hoping for political change. I became involved with The BCNDP Party when their platform included ending the clawback of child support payments from single parents on Social Assistance in British Columbia. I had never been personally involved in politics (other than voting) but I was righteously angry about systems that I personally experienced and viewed as illegal and immoral. I was very tired of feeling victimized and oppressed and viewed politics as a means to channel that energy into political change.
Viveca Ellis, with whom I shared a mutual connection through Vancouver Co-Op Radio, heard of my efforts of advocating through telling my story for First Call's 2013 Child Poverty Report Card and approached me about creating a non-profit called The Single Mothers Alliance of BC.
These “Rightings” are about the year I spent as Co-founder of The Single Mothers Alliance of British Columbia.
It's Christmas ....Again.
I wish I loved it more, but I don’t. It makes me more aware of what I don’t have, than what I do. It’s always been that way. Most of the year I can ignore it, but this time of year, it ---- it being poverty, single motherhood, drama fatherhood, having to create a life and childhood experience worth remembering on my own, stands out more at this time of year than any other.
I hate asking for help. I would rather just go without. But, nearly every Christmas for the last eight years, I have had to humble myself and ask for help so that my kids will wake up on Christmas morning and feel happy, lucky and like they have been good and forgiven and Santa, God and Jesus love them and have not forgotten them.
The generosity of others at Christmas is truly magical because we do feel lucky, blessed and loved because people notice us, think of us and help us.
When we reach out for help, it is there. Why do they do it, I wonder, why do they give? I thought they didn’t like us…
Sometimes, I feel defensive about being a single mother, as though I need to tell my story in an effort to justify my children’s right to be here and my right as their mother to raise them. My defensiveness, my sense that the world and its systems are not my friend, but my oppressor, are a byproduct of a growing up in a poverty cycle more quicksand than cycle. The more you fight and flail, the further you sink.
With the growing support for the #endtheclawback campaign, I wonder if I am wrong, if people really do care and want to help single parents all year round, not just at Christmas; as a hand-up, not a hand-out.
My children are growing up. This is their childhood experience. That is the reality, but it doesn’t have to be a negative one. My hope is our challenges will build in them an education on the consequences of their actions and non-actions, a heart for helping people and the knowledge that they can always begin again.
After all, that is the true message of Christmas, isn’t it?
The BIG Meeting
I’ve been looking forward to today for a very long time. Its been two years since my government assistance cheque, was clawed back dollar for dollar from the one lump sum child support payment I ever received while on social assistance.
Why, might you ask was it the last one?
Because their father saw his money did more harm than good. His child support set us back, because after I paid bills, got groceries and bought the clothes and shoes our kids needed with his money, two months later, I had no cheque, no rent and no way to buy food. That was the last time he gave me money.
Today, I am going to a #endtheclawback meeting today and what am I bringing? A tired single mom.
Why? Because I am a single parent, organizing a home, children, myself, school and work while constantly reaching for a better life for myself and my children. Its hard work. I’m not complaining, I’m explaining. There’s a BIG difference.
That is why the rights of single mothers go forever unnoticed and without public protest, as we are just too busy being single mothers to fight for the rights of single mothers. Not to mention, we have been socially conditioned to feel ashamed of who we are for either not having sex, having sex, having an abortion, having a child, never having a child, being married, never being married, being separated, being divorced, raising our child(ren) on our own, raising them separately or in some 50/50 60/40 one week on/one week off way that will work for our family whatever life looks like for us, one thing is for sure it is not good enough for someone else!
That’s why approval seeking is such a such a frustrating experience and that’s why there is but one ultimate authority, a A Loving God as He expresses Himself to you. A funny thing happens when you stop seeking people’s approval, you actually begin to live your own life and wonder why you ever gave so much of your power to someone else.
Who are they to approve of you?
Regardless of the social norms and debates, tomorrow morning, five single mothers will have a seat at a BIG TABLE where decisions will be made that affect our lives. We fully intend to engage in the process by summoning the courage it takes to tell the truth. We don’t want pity. We want REAL CHANGE the kind you can take to the bank and then to the grocery store to buy food for your family.
Feeling Hopeful for endtheclawback
December 11, 2014
Maybe I am naive, I have certainly been called that before, but after todays meeting with all the advocates, poverty coalitions, alliances and councils at todays First Call BC meeting with Minister Don McRae, Assistant Deputy Minister Molly Harrington and Representatives from The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), I am feeling, dare I say it, hopeful for change.
I sense that they want to change this policy. Its my feeling and by no means a fact, but I do feel it. At todays meeting they really seemed to listen intently to the lived experience stories of the clawback and not just out of empathy, although that was present, but more for solutions. That tone is what makes me so hopeful. That it seems to me (again, my opinion only) that they are seriously considering ending the clawback of child support payments from children whose parent receives government assistance, they just have to figure out how they can do it.
There were many valid arguments made and I raised a few points myself, in between sobbing as I just felt so weak and wounded today it can be very emotionally draining to put yourself out there but my main point was that it was very, very difficult to leave a fear-based relationship (some may call it abuse, I do not because I don’t like to identify myself in that way and that is my choice) only to feel further victimized by the government by being left with so few choices. It truly feels like a further extension of violence against women, which is very powerful to me and incredibly sad at the very same time.
It makes me sad because I want to feel like the BC government wants to see me and my children succeed, like they are on our side cheering us on, saying Don’t give up, You can do it, Yes, You Can!
Ok, granted, a little Obamaish, but you get the point.
Maybe its Obama who comes to mind because so many people said that he could never win, just like so many people say the clawback will never end, but it could, it could …
British Columbia could make history, just like Obama did.
June 17, 2015
I can't even believe it. I was at school today when I got the news. I was watching my phone obsessively because I knew the BC Budget was being being made public today and it would include the decision regarding the clawback. I have never, ever anticipated a budget in my life because I had no concept of how much these things affect my everyday life. It amazes, irritates and inspires me that so many lives can be changed with the stroke of a pen by government.
I sat in a chair by myself, with tears in my eyes, knowing that I had worked hard to contribute to something that will change lives in such a very practical way. I was surprised by the amount of people, effort and time it required to experience a political win. I was proud of all the advocates such as First Call BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, MLA Michelle Mungall for her tireless voice in the House of Commons, Kendra Milne of Westcoast Leaf for filing a lawsuit pro bono on behalf of single mothers on assistance and Michelle Jankovich of The Cause We Care Foundation for their financial support, as well as the BC Voters that put social pressure on the government to change this policy. I was especially proud of all of us that had the courage to share our story through the tears of the shame of poverty despite our fear of financial retaliation from the government. Our stories actually made a difference and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
So what does it mean?
This policy change means that, as of September 1, 2015, the government will finally stop picking the pockets of 5,400 of BC’s most vulnerable children. The average monthly child support payment in BC is just over $300, but for families living in the deep poverty caused by inadequate income or disability assistance rates, even being able to keep a modest $50 or $100 will make a big difference. This announcement means roughly $13.4 million will be going towards 5,400 of BC’s most vulnerable children!
This win also includes an end to the mandatory assignment of a parent’s maintenance rights, for example to seek court-ordered child support, to the ministry. Effective May 1, 2015, if a client would like ministry help with obtaining a maintenance order or written agreement, the client may voluntarily assign their maintenance rights to the ministry, but they are no longer required to assign these rights in order to be eligible to receive income assistance. There are criteria for income assistance recipients to meet to obtain this help. (Source)
Isn't politics amazing when it actually works?
Thank you for the memories & motivation!
All my Relations - Frances Stone, Ms. Recovery Writes
The many moments over 2014 that made my time and efforts with The Single Mothers Alliance of BC so rewarding.
Frances Stone is the Author of A Reflection of Love ~ A Different Kind of Love Story, a Recovery Counsellor and a Radio Co-Host of Talk Recovery Vancouver, a show about addiction and recovery issues, located in the DTES of Vancouver, BC. In her spare time, she does laundry and mothers three clever, curious and challenging little humans.