Some moms struggle alone

Published 11:31 am Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sonia Senn is quick to say she’s not looking for a handout. But it’s been a tough week.

“If you wanta feel sorry for me, go for it,” she said.

Sonia is the beautiful Puerto Rican woman who slices roast beef at Tabby D’s. She’s been estranged from her husband for a dozen years, but unable to reach divorce terms.

And child support, she said, has been sporadic.

“I depend on child support to make it,” she said.

She’s driving the same van she had when they split, and it runs hot much of the time. Her roof leaks, and she’s in danger of being in foreclosure on her home. She estimates she makes $18,000 per year.

Her husband, who has a military pension, works as an RN. He pays enough of his child support, she said, to stay out of trouble.

According to the official formulas, she should receive upward of $800 a month in support. Instead, she’s getting just north of $200. And he’s $20,000 in arrears.

“I went to apply for food stamps,” she said. “Because the records show I should be getting this much money, I don’t qualify,” she said. “Even though they know I’m not getting it, they have to follow their rules.”

“They know. They can’t do nothing,” she said. “As long as he pays something, they won’t arrest him.”

Her husband, she said, also has two small children with the woman with whom he currently lives. Those children are included as child support dependents, and money taken out of his check is shared with them, essentially going back into his household.

Sonia said she wants those children to be cared for. But she wants her children to be cared for, too.

“My kids know what it is to go to be hungry,” she said. “I try so hard; but I can’t do it. It’s humiliating. I’ve been stripped of my pride, of everything.

“It frustates me, that somebody could get away with it,” she said. “I have no money, and no way of fighting back.”

So at wit’s end, she thought she’d talk to the newspaper.

“The rules have to change,” she said.

Sonia is not alone in her struggle. The system is full of dads who are in trouble for not paying child support.

And the world is full of people who are trying, but because they are, don’t qualify for help.

Even with her leaky roof, old vehicle, and legal challenges, Sonia considers herself blessed.

“There are so many people out there like me but worse,” she said. “My mama, she helps me all she can. And the good Lord, he helps me, too.

“I just keep trying to make it. Some day, I’m going to make it.”