Candi Inman's life at 23 is not exactly what she once dreamed it would be.
If you had asked a very young Candi where she thought she'd be in 1988, she would probably have said she'd be happily married, settled in a nice home with a couple of adorable kids and a doting husband. After all, she was a bright girl who "could do well in school without even having to go." Her parents were reasonably well-to-do; she was used to the "good life."Reality has been a bit of a shock. "You mean you have to pay for water?" she wailed jokingly, describing taking responsibility for her own debts and choices. "You're kidding."
Candi got part of her dream: She is a mother. In her words, "a great mother" to 3-year-old Jessup. But other than Jess, the dream has fallen apart.
She is separated from her second husband, and although she'd like to stay married, a reconciliation failed and she "knows it's over." She doesn't have her own home; she and Jess live with her parents, which she says puts a lot of pressure on everyone now that she's an adult. She's also unemployed and facing a prospect that fills her with dread: Candi does not want to "go on welfare." On the other hand, she does want to become self-sufficient, and these days, in Davis County, the two seem to go hand-in-hand.
Davis County, which accounts for about 5 percent of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children cases in Utah,
has been selected as the site of a national pilot project in welfare reform. The Davis project, estimated to cost about $500,000, will focus on providing services needed by single mothers to become self-sufficient.
Although it will be costly at first, officials in the Department of Social Services believe the program will pay for itself later as people leave public assistance rolls and contribute to the tax base by joining the work force.
To accomplish this, the state will provide a variety of services to clients, including day-care assistance, job training, classes and job-search assistance. It will also offer incentives to employers to hire these wom-en. Participation in the project is now voluntary but will become mandatory in Davis County. Clients and the department will sign a contract outlining respective responsibilities as the client works toward achieving her self-sufficiency plan.
The Deseret News went with Candi to meet her self-sufficiency caseworker in the Clearfield Office of Community Operations. Sue Abbott will work closely with Candi and about 50 other women as the project unfolds.
The first meeting is used by the department to explain what the self-sufficiency program is about, how it works and options available to the client. During this meeting, caseworker and client establish an initial "game plan" for achieving independence.
"In the past," Abbott said, "we haven't really let people know they have options and choices. We're doing that now."
First, they discussed Candi's own view of her strengths and weaknesses, as well as her goal in the program. Her strengths: humor and self-confidence. "I know it sounds egotistical," Candi said, "but I know I can do it. I'd like to do it without having to get AFDC at all."
Her major weakness, she said, is "I believe everybody. I'm a real sponge, because I want to believe that everyone is open and honest and nice."
Her goal is "to not have to rely on someone else - like another guy."
Together, they decided that Candi would begin by attending the monthly self-sufficiency classes offered by OCO. For three hours a day for nine days, women learn about a variety of subjects, ranging from personal appearance to positive parenting and improving self-image.
The department has a contract with Weber State College's Women's Resource Center, so class participants will have an opportunity to take a battery of tests that provide what Abbott calls an "occupation inventory."
Candi will meet with a "job developer" at Job Service who works one-on-one with self-sufficiency mothers to decide what skills she needs to hone and what employment options are available to her. They might include on-the-job training or some schooling.
Right now, she's interested in travel agent work, "or anything where a lot of people come in and talk to me. I couldn't stand a job where I'd just sit in an office and never see anyone."
While she explores employment options, Candi will also get on waiting lists for a low-income, subsidized apartment so she and Jessup can begin to "stand on our own four feet," as she put it.
In two or three weeks, Candi Inman and Sue Abbott will get together again, to discuss what they've learned and where they're going next. We'll let you know what they decide.