CFLE in Context: Finding My CFLE Career — Case Management

by Anahi Castillo, M.S., CFLE
CFLE Network
Content Area
Internal Dynamics of Families

Each of us finds our career in our own unique way, and sometimes our career finds us. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do at age sixteen; I wanted to help people. But life threw me a few curveballs and I took the road less travelled. Reaching my career goals was not the cut and dry "Ph.D. by age 26" scenario. But ultimately I became a CFLE, and feel that this designation has been truly rewarding.

Going into my senior year of college I found out I was pregnant. I was not married, had just broken up with the father, and had no family support nearby. My world came crashing down. I was working as a waitress to support myself. I lived in a tiny efficiency that cost $310 per month utilities included. I remained in survival mode and created no debt. My family was over 650 miles away and had no way of helping me financially. I was so afraid because I knew that I was one year away from graduating.

One year away from reaching my personal career goal, and about nine months away from the responsibility of becoming a parent. I took stock of my assets and my liabilities: I had no debt and I was able to cover all my expenses. The baby needed a roof (which I had), breast milk (which I would have), clothes (which I could find at consignment stores), and transportation (which I had). I realized I had everything I would need to raise a baby as a single mother. My eyes opened and I realized I was starting my own little family. I knew the journey would not be easy but worth it.

My mindset shifted. All the negative things I had seen as insurmountable obstacles, transformed into blessings in disguise.

I have always been a very determined and self-motivated person, so I started the planning process. I spoke with all my college professors who were willing to let me take two weeks of maternity leave as long as I completed my school work throughout the semester. I went online and looked for as many resources as I could find. I applied for Medicaid, Food stamps, TANF, Child Care Services (CCS), and attended every free event they held for mothers. Every bit of money I had left over from waitressing went straight to buying baby supplies.

During spring break of my last semester in college my baby boy William was born. He was 6lbs 8oz and was born healthy and perfect. His eyes were blue green, he had light brown hair, and his cheeks were chubby. My plan had worked perfectly. My mother came to stay for 3 months until I graduated. I was on Medicaid so my entire hospital bill was taken care of. I was on food stamps and WIC so I had a valuable support system when it came childcare.

In May 2010 I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor's in Psychology. Fast forward: A year later I decided to go back to school to get my Master's degree in Family Studies. I had found a decent paying job at Child Care Services and was no longer receiving Medicaid or Food Stamps. The only assistance I was receiving was through CCS (my current employment).

I landed the job because I had a degree in Psychology but what set me apart was that I already knew the program on a personal level. I had benefited from their services and I was very grateful for their support. I knew what the eligibility requirements were, what kind of paperwork they mailed out to the clients, and what type of assistance they provided.

I have been working with CCS for over 4 years now. The mission of our program is to help families become self-sufficient by helping with child care costs. One of the main requirements of the program is that a client needs to be working, going to school or job training at least 25 hours per week. CCS has a high income guideline. In CCS a two-person family can make up to $3264 per month and still qualify for services.

CCS is a federal and state funded program. Any family in need of child care assistance can find it in any state, even though rules may vary slightly. CCS is an assistance which will help fund for the cost of child care based on your income. A Parent Share of Cost (PSOC) fee is assessed according to gross monthly income. As an example, if a two-person family (mother and child) seeks support and the only income received is from mom waitressing (which was my situation in college) and she is attending school full-time (12 credit hours) she would be assessed a very low fee. If she is bringing home $700 per month gross pay her PSOC would be $16. This PSOC fee would be paid directly to the childcare center of her choice. The goal of our program is for parents to become self-sufficient so their PSOC fee will increase as their income increases.

As a Client Service Specialist I am responsible for determining eligibility and assessing PSOC fees. I have had clients who have been on the program for over 10 years. I started on the program when my son was 3 months old and I transitioned off services when my son turned 4 years old. I married and was well over the income guidelines. Even after getting off the services it was a struggle to pay for childcare because I had another child and having full-time childcare costs for two kids can be financially burdensome. If a parent is paying private rate for infant care they are looking at $125 to $165 per week. Child care costs on average $620 per month. The cost is so high that it would be extremely difficult for a single parent to afford the charges. Most parents would be working just to pay childcare. Fortunately, with this program, a reasonable fee is assessed based on the income of the parent rather than a standard rate.

I started working as a Client Service Specialist (case manager) my first semester of graduate school. Many of the subjects I learned in school were directly applied to my job. An example is when I was required to take a course in Families and Public Policy. As a case worker it is my job to make sure I am abiding by the rules in order to avoid any disallowed costs for the program. Disallowed costs are assessed when eligibility requirements are not met due to the fault of the program. An example of disallowed cost is when we provide a job search for a client and we pay for more than the 28 days allowed by the state. If the parent does not return from job search on the 28th day we are required to mail out a termination of services notice giving 15 days to transition off the program and 14 days to appeal the termination. If we fail to terminate care after the 28th day any day past this is disallowed.

As a Certified Family Life Educator I have learned to read public policy and come to understand it in layman terms in order to explain it to my clients. It is a family struggle for some of my clients when they lose their jobs during the holidays. As a Certified Family Life Educator I try to prevent these situations by helping clients think ahead rather than waiting till the last minute to find a job. My job does not stop when I determine them eligible for the program. It continues through the growth of my client as they become more knowledgeable about their responsibilities and resources. Many people on public assistance have a lot of paperwork they have to sign in order to receive assistance. Most of this paperwork is in fine print and can take hours to read and much more to understand. I have clients who do not have a high school education and some parents who are teens. They sign and date on the X and never stop to read what they are signing. It is my responsibility to teach them in layman terms their rights and responsibilities while on the program. These conversations are never easy but with my degree I have more knowledge on how to handle them.

Another struggle for low-income families is managing their time and resources. During graduate school I was required to teach a course and I chose time and money management. I chose these two subjects because I have taken multiple financial and time management courses. After teaching the class I realized that families do not know how to manage their resources to the fullest capacity. An example is when I had to describe the resource of time. I have heard my clients complain about how they never have enough money and time. During the class I asked them two questions. My questions were, "How many hours in a day does Donald Trump have?" the answer after a short pause, "24." I proceeded to give them confidence that their answer was correct and asked again, "How many hours in a day does the President of the United States have?" and with confidence they said "24." At that moment a little light switch seemed to click and they realized it wasn't always about how many resources they had but how they used them. I had them write down a typical day in their lives and many in the class realized that a lot of their time was spent watching television.

A short list of the types of struggles my clients have encountered are drugs, finances, partner relationships, child protective services, family violence, job loss, family loss, maternity leave, time, career, education, transportation, and so forth.

Overall I have seen families on my case load struggle with many obstacles. As a Certified Family Life Educator I have become much more compassionate and understanding of the family struggles my clients face. I feel that the dreams I held as a sixteen year old, namely "to help people" have come full circle. By being a Certified Family Life Educator I am doing what I had always dreamt of doing; namely making a difference.


Are you eligible? Work Force Solutions of West Central Texas. Retrieved October 9th, 2015

Chapter 809 Rules. Texas Workforce Commission. Retrieved October 9th, 2015

Anahi Castillo, M.S., CFLE received her Associates degree in Psychology at El Paso Community College and then moved on to Abilene Christian University to pursue a Bachelors, which she attained Magna Cum Laude. She completed a Master's in Family Studies and holds the CFLE certification.

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