By Teresa Cavaliere
West Palm Beach, FL, USA
(credit: Joseph J. Bucheck III)
Oh yes there is! There really is such a thing as a "free lunch" - never knowing that it would be the catalyst to getting my children health insurance. That was the one thing that really freaked me out. I’d lie awake at night scouring my brain, going over the countless lists of programs, to see if I had missed anything. I applied for just about everything there was until one of my friends said, “Teresa, have you signed the kids up for the free lunch program at their schools?” No, why? She began telling me how the so-called “system” works with our wonderful government. You see, like me, she had no clue until that glorious day when we each swallowed our pride and came clean about the mess we were in. Record high foreclosures, no jobs to be found, and very little money to go around. We were all in the same proverbial boat and sinking fast. The Titanic had nothing on us. I reached for that life preserver faster than you could say “free lunch” and ran with it!
She started telling me how I stood a better chance of getting health care if I sign the kids up for the “free lunch” program at their schools. So I did. But there was so much talk on the news about so many families signing up, I was afraid they might not have enough. I was so nervous…praying they would accept my application. Oh my God, when I got that acceptance letter, it was as if I won the lotto! I immediately went to the Children and Family Services website and filled out the application/questionnaire. They made me work hard for this commodity. So many verifications, like bank statements, foreclosure letters, the list goes on, and I had to get an employer verification of income, which opened a whole other can of worms - the anger I had toward my husband who I couldn’t get to do aaaanything. I needed his employer’s verification letter. I was no longer a “working mom.” Ugh, did I need this? It took unnecessary arguments just to get him moving. I was losing it. How could he procrastinate on something so important for our children’s well-being? Not even the simple task of an employer’s letter, oh my God man! I was like a raging bear protecting her cubs. After several months, and many failed attempts at filling out the dreaded application, it finally happened. I got the letter. “Yes” - Stay Well Kids is now your children’s healthcare provider. I literally cried when those cards came in the mail. Thank you, God for giving me the strength to share my secret with my friend. We helped each other. It may not be pretty sometimes, but you have to ask or you’ll never know. Just like anything. You have to work at it.
I knew these programs existed in the public school system, but honestly, I never gave it a thought. We were good. We didn’t need it. It was for those less fortunate. Not anymore. I swallowed my pride. What a relief. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for months at a time. We had tightened our belts…it was a matter of survival. Once I opened up about my despair, my entire network of friends started coming out. Times are hard and we needed each other. It set us free of the stigma attached to the dreaded “FORECLOSURE”! I don’t know if it’s getting better or I’ve just gotten used to scraping the bottom of the barrel, but I’m not done yet!
Teresa Cavaliere is on the frontlines of today’s America and reports on the curves life throws at her.