Debbie is a resourceful mother of 4 children who works hard to find the bright side and the life lessons amid difficulties. She a recovering alcoholic who finds great strength and comfort in her faith in God, whom she believes will find ways to provide for her and her children. With the support of her minister and physician, she was working on trying to understand and move past the emotional difficulties that haunted her.
Debbie grew up in poverty, in an abusive, alcoholic family in New Brunswick, and is on the Canada Pension Plan disability benefit because of severe depression and anxiety. Her current mental health problems began after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. At the time, she was working the night shift at a Kingston call centre, caring for three young children, and getting little sleep. The attacks triggered a post-traumatic stress response that left her unable to work and made it difficult for her to be outside her home.
Because she was on the CPP disability benefit and not the Ontario Disability Support Program, Debbie did not have coverage for prescription medications, dental services or vision care. The family’s out of pocket health care expenditures were significant. One of her sons needed new glasses every year, a cost that Debbie had to pay out of pocket. He had been prescribed medication for ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder but Debbie couldn’t afford the $50 per month it would cost. Debbie’s church had paid $90 per month for medication for her daughter’s seizures, which stopped by the time she was three but had almost cost her life on three occasions and could return at any time. Debbie herself found that her eyesight was deteriorating but she couldn’t afford new glasses. Neither could she afford the hearing aid that she needed. She paid $200/month for her own medication.
Her eldest son was living in a group home far from Kingston (but close to his dad) because of behavioural issues. Debbie felt very guilty that she rarely saw him and couldn’t afford the long distance charges to call him very often. She felt this also reflected badly in the records of the group home and Children’s Aid and found that they made her feel like a bad parent. She also felt badly that she couldn’t have her son at her home because the two eldest boys would get into life-threatening fights. Her second eldest son started selling and using illicit drugs at the age of 13 and had landed in the hospital after an overdose. Children’s Aid had gotten involved with the family after this, and Debbie found them a big help. They paid for some activities for her children and helped her line up other resources for them. Even though her son had been clean for half a year, she waited by the phone during the day, wondering if the school was going to call about some misbehavior. She was hoping a community program for at risk teens would have space for him to join, and was anxiously awaiting their phone call. She was pleased that he had decided to become a chef and was proud of his cooking abilities.
Debbie was proud of her own creativity and resourcefulness, taking advantage of free activities for her kids and tapping available resources to help her meet her financial shortfalls. Members of her church were a big help to her, bringing her food, clothing, furniture and Christmas presents. She wished she could buy it herself, but was grateful for the support and didn’t know how she would manage without them. Debbie tended not to use the Kingston food bank because it was inconvenient in its location and hours, and even with a food basket, she needed to have other groceries to make a “real” meal. She was trying to organize a group of other women in similar circumstances to help support each other.