Human services put single mom on the road to independence.
Meet the Kulesza Family
Mount Bethel, Pa.
Jessica Kulesza has a college degree, and three semesters of Master’s classes toward obtaining her social worker license. When her mom passed away, she was left with $70,000 in student loan debt and no one to lean on.
In 2013, Jessica moved to the Slate Belt region to find more affordable housing, and commuted to work in New Jersey. When she discovered that she was pregnant, at first, her family wasn’t supportive. “I was raised by a single mom who had health and financial troubles,” Jessica says, explaining that her extended family helped her mother a lot, and knew the situation could be hard for her, too. At seven months pregnant, she was fired from her job, and after her daughter was born, Jessica became a single mom herself. She knew that when unemployment and Family Medical Leave Act funds ran out, she would be evicted and lose her car. “Though I was stubborn and didn’t want to ask for help, I was concerned about my mental state,” she says. She worried about her own health and her baby’s, as well as her inability to pay bills. She says, “I was living with anxiety and was on the verge of a breakdown.” Slater Family Network, a nonprofit agency that serves families in the Bangor School District, referred Jessica for mental health counseling, and provided food, clothing and emergency bill assistance to help Jessica get on her feet. “My counselor Chris gave me the tools that I need to make progress, and I can definitely see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jessica says.
Jessica started a new job two years ago in Pennsylvania, and received child care assistance so that Brailynn could attend a quality day care. Because of genetic health issues, and an injury resulting from a car accident, she needed to leave work and began receiving disability benefits a few months ago. Medicaid funding will help pay for an upcoming medical procedure. Jessica, now aged 33, looks forward to being able to run and play with Brailynn again, and return to work.
Jessica says that although she wasn’t ready to be a parent, having Brailynn has changed her life for the better: “It’s changed my entire perspective on the world; before I didn’t watch the news and wasn’t informed. I want to make sure the world is a safe place for her to be in.” Though she worries that her problems are affecting her daughter, Jessica hopes that she and Brailynn, now aged 3, will be able to give back to the community that has given them so much. “I want to open up the world to her,” she says. “I know that she can go out and save the world someday.”