Berman: A single mother’s struggle yields conundrum for all - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Berman: A single mother’s struggle yields conundrum for all

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Susan Berman is president and CEO of Fresh Start Women’s Foundation.

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014 2:00 pm

A controversial spotlight shines upon Phoenix, once again, as a tearful mugshot of Valley resident Shanesha Taylor circulates around the world.

You may remember Shanesha, a single mother of two who was arrested in March after she left her children in her vehicle during a job interview because she couldn’t find childcare.

I have given a lot of thought to Shanesha’s case and why it is so thought-provoking to me. I surmise it is because she was trying to make significant headway, improve her life and her children’s, and her only choices were bad and worse. She had an opportunity to get a job that would support her children and greatly enhance her very condition in the world. But, without daycare, her hopes were dashed. So, she made a choice to go in for the interview and leave her children in the car.

Am I debating whether that was a wise choice? No, but it did leave me to ponder, “What would I have done?” Not only as the parent of those two precious children, but what would I have done as the potential employer or concerned citizen?

I can tell you that many individuals who are job hunting, by nature of their having to provide for their families and themselves, may very well become more desperate than if all of their needs are being met. They are anxious, nervous, and unsettled; they do not know where the next carton of milk, tank of gas, or rent payment will come from. They experience a sense of urgency that may direct them to make choices they normally may not make.

As an employer, I asked myself what I would have done if Shanesha called me right before an interview to tell me her childcare fell through. Would I understand? Would I tell her to bring her children in with her? Would I see this as “shades of things to come” and consider her off my hiring list? Would I reschedule her for a time when she would have childcare? In all honesty, I very possibly would have passed her over for a candidate who could show up, and I might have missed out on a spectacular employee. If given a chance to interview at a different time, or with her children in tow—while a bit unorthodox—it might have been her saving grace and our success in hiring a bright, motivated, and possibly, a very grateful employee.

Having raised my children as a single parent, I empathize with her situation. This type of issue arises frequently, and often there is no immediate solution. Childcare can be a very difficult thing to schedule, is expensive, and often drop-in slots are not available. A young mother with young children, with no job, and no resources needs childcare and can benefit from the help, more than anyone.

To that end, as a program provider at Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, I have determined we are becoming a part of the solution and are pursuing funding to license our Child Watch facility so women who are in Shanesha’s circumstances have another option for childcare. Our hope is to provide this service within the next few months, and we anticipate many of our clients—whether interviewing, attending court appearances, or visiting their doctor—will find this support invaluable.

As a community member, I am reminded to not judge another until I walk in her shoes. While I hope I never have to make such a decision—and if faced with the challenge, I hope I make the right decision—I am not entirely sure what I would have done if I were in her shoes. But, I do want to say to Shanesha, and every other struggling single mother out there, don’t look back, don’t give up, keep moving forward; you go girl, success is within reach!

• Susan Berman is the CEO of Fresh Start Women’s Foundation

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