Family Outreach

Mercedes reduced
The combination of assistance provided through the SENCA Cass County Outreach program, along with Mercedes’ unrelenting determination to succeed, allowed Mercedes the opportunity to achieve her goals and provide a safe and secure home for her children. 
Overcoming adversity isn’t an easy task for many households, especially for the 29% of single parent families who currently reside throughout Nebraska.  While an emergency situation can happen to anyone at any time, it is especially challenging for economically challenged, single parent households such as Mercedes.  Mercedes, a 25 year old, single mother, who within weeks of giving birth to her 2nd child, found herself without a job, no health insurance and temporarily staying with a family member.  With only a small amount of money remaining from her 2016 tax return and knowing she needed help, Mercedes contacted the Cass County Family Outreach Office in Plattsmouth and scheduled an appointment to meet with Family Development Specialist (FDS), Darla Blevins.
SENCA trained and certified Family Development Specialists are front-line staff who work one-on-one with low-income individuals or families, such as Mercedes, who seek assistance from agency programs and services.  During the initial meeting the FDS gathers information required to complete a Basic Intake Form, (BIF).  The information includes those currently living in the household along with a family financial report that helps determine if the household qualifies for assistance.  To determine program eligibility SENCA utilizes the most current poverty guidelines established through the Department of Health and Human Services.  Households who seek assistance for many of the services provided through Family Outreach are required to be at or below 135% of poverty.
Once the FDS has received all the required information they are better equipped to identify what programs and services will help provide the best solution to the client’s current situation.  The initial assistance that SENCA provided Mercedes included referrals for housing and employment, food and personal care items, along with much needed baby care items that included a voucher to a local grocery store to purchase diapers.  
Two months later, following the birth of her 2nd child, Mercedes obtained employment at a local restaurant and returned to SENCA to seek rental assistance.  SENCA provided Mercedes with half of the first month’s rent which helped secure a home for her and her two children plus various child care items that the young single mom was very grateful to receive.     
As a requirement of receiving emergency assistance from SENCA, Mercedes was enrolled in case management.  Once a month Mercedes met with the Cass County FDS and worked on skills such as goal setting, money management and budgeting.  Mercedes also received information and help in signing up her three year old for Head Start preschool, school supplies and information on the Child Saving Institute and the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) supplemental program.   
The combination of assistance provided through the SENCA Cass County Outreach program, along with Mercedes’ unrelenting determination to succeed, allowed Mercedes the opportunity to achieve her goals and establish a career in the food industry. Within a few months of being hired in a nearby fast food franchise, Mercedes hard work started paying off.  In addition to receiving several pay raises she was a promoted to store manager. 
Within seven months of entering case management Mercedes was able to successfully exit the program.  She went from having little to no earned income to a career with a future that pays her a living wage.  Combined with the child support she receives for her oldest son, her monthly income is sufficient in meeting all of her family’s basic needs and has allowed her to reduce her need of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by $177 a month.  The budgeting skills she acquired through case management has allowed Mercedes to save enough money and pre-pay her rent several months in advance, which is a feeling of security to this young mother who knows what it is like to be homeless.    
Mercedes is grateful to SENCA for providing the fundamental resources she needed to help her work through a challenging situation and move toward a life of self-sufficiency.  When asked to comment on her success this insightful young mom simply states “I live within my means and that is the only reason it works.”