Joe’s Wife Susan – Composite Case Study

Typical Low-Income Single Parent. Susan, age 25, is a separated, single parent, who lives with her three children, Charles, age 9, John age 5, and Suzie age 3. She has an apartment in Fairview Homes, a low-income housing project. She and Joe used to live in private housing. Her income comes from Work First and Food Stamps. Susan’s apartment has little furniture and sheets cover the windows. The children have few toys and their clothing is very worn and seems too small for them.
Aggressive Child. Charles, age 9, is an outgoing, aggressive child who speaks loudly about whatever he wants. Susan is worried because he is constantly fighting at school. He also talks of how some of the kids he plays with are finding drugs in the neighborhood.
Passive Child. John, age 5, is in kindergarten and is very quiet whenever you visit. Susan expressed concern that John’s teacher does not pay enough attention to him, and she is afraid that he will be held back this year. When he does speak, John is difficult to understand.
Sick Child. Suzie, the three year old, goes to daycare while her mother attends CPCC. Susan is working to finish her high school diploma and has one more quarter of work to do. Suzie has frequent colds and ear Infections that often keep Susan from attending classes. The children spend much of their time watching loud television. It never stops – even when you are there across the room for visits. You notice that Suzie sits very close to the television set, and that she holds objects very close to her face when she looks at them.
No Career Direction. Susan dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Susan had no clear idea what sort of work she might like to do after finishing her GED. She expresses a vague interest in working in the health field. Three years ago she was working at McDonald’s when she found out that she was pregnant again and quit.
No Child Support. Susan has received little or no child support from the children’s father since Joe has been in prison. Lately there has been a little more since Joe got on work release. Susan is concerned that she might be pregnant by another man and has expressed uncertainty as to what she will do about this.
Bad Family Background. Susan knows nothing about her own father. Her mother also lives in Fairview Homes and occasionally visits while you are visiting there. You notice that the mother appears unsteady on her feet and sometimes smells of alcohol. Susan tells you that she spends a considerable amount of time with her mother, and also helps her mother care for a bedridden grandmother. Susan has three brothers and two sisters who she sees frequently.
Alone & Fearful. When Joe left, Susan felt very alone and was full of fears. She knew that she would be a social misfit and would be seen as a displaced person. She knew that she would have no security blanket. Joe at least used to provide things from his life of crime and drugs. Now she is scraping for every bit of cash. The pressure from the bills piles up and never lets up. She constantly has had to sacrifice any nice things she needed. It’s all she can do to meet the basic needs of the children – things like coats and shoes that fit. She rarely is able to go anywhere, because it is hard to find the right people to take care of her children.
Addiction. For a long time she felt cheated, was in shock, and had then became angry. For a while, she got lost in a fog of depression with life seeming like a big vacuum. She started using sleeping pills and anti-depressants. She used a counselor and finally found the will to break the grip of these medications. Now she seems much better adjusted.
No Church Involvement. She has found support primarily in her family, and with a few friends. She tried going to church but felt uncomfortable in the churches she tried.
(See the last four paragraphs of the “Joe Ex-offender Case Study” to see how her relationship to Joe has been like lately.)

© STEP Foundation of Charlotte, Inc. – 1/30/05