Kathy Strong is a single mother of three children. Her two oldest sons have left the “nest” and are successful adults. She is currently raising her youngest son, Gavin. Kathy’s two oldest sons have the same father while Gavin is the son between her and her second ex-husband. She is also blessed to be a grandmother to three beautiful grandchildren; which, luckily live nearby so she can visit them as often as possible. Gavin is only a few months older than his nephew and nieces so they don’t call him “Uncle”. He is growing up in the same generation as his nieces and nephews. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY4
Kathy ensures that Gavin is exposed to as many activities that he desires to be in as possible. I was recently privileged to be invited to his baseball game where Gavin did well on the field and batting. I can personally attest, as his teacher, that Gavin is quite talented, intelligent, and displays common sense. As you can see from the lower left picture (Gavin is in the center) that he definitely has rhythm. Gavin also has his cadre of friends, and you can see him on the slide amongst his friends. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY5
Gavin also has a Big Brother. They were recently featured in our local Daily Journal newsletter. Kathy recognizes the importance for Gavin to have a male role model. Gavin’s father is an alcoholic who recently got out of rehabilitation. He continues to see his son approximately every once a month or every other month. When he does see Gavin, he comes to Kathy’s house and stays for about an hour and leaves. He has been to only two of Gavin’s baseball games this whole season. Kathy also struggles to get child support from his dad. When I was at Gavin’s baseball game last week, his father was three weeks behind in financial support. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY6
As you can see, Gavin has long hair and is missing his two front teeth. Gavin is hoping to cut his hair and sell it on E-Bay. Everyone he knows hopes he is successful. Gavin’s front teeth were knocked out in an accident. Due to financial issues, Gavin went most of this year without his two front teeth as they were waiting on his father’s child support. This past month, he came to school with his new retainer that had his new front teeth. Gavin was extremely excited about this and showed all his friends and me. This comes at a time before Gavin and his classmates transition to the intermediate school. Everyone who knows Gavin, realizes that his character is what everyone falls in love with. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY7
9 Tell me about your life history. Give me some of the highlights that stick out in your memory. (Begin with your early life, then teenage years, then adult years…) In general, I grew up in a dysfunctional abusive home. My mom was an alcoholic and had several boyfriends. She was married four times and the second husband was so abusive he tried to kill my mom. One time he tried to slit her wrist. We were there when the ambulance came and he convinced my mom to tell them that she tried to commit suicide. I grew up near Tech High School (in Indianapolis). It actually wasn’t that bad of a neighborhood when I grew up there starting out. It got worse as we grew up. My mom got polio when she was four years old and walked with a limp. She worked for 20 years at Indiana Bell, but lost that job due to the alcoholism. She got to the point where she got caught drinking at work. Then, she went through rehab. We grew up in an atmosphere where my mom got black eyes and had to go to work with sunglasses. There was also sexual abuse. I was raped when I was six years old. Because of my mom’s alcoholism, she’d led us girls to believe that it was our fault.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY10 (continued) She told us that we were attracting the wrong kind of men even those these were the kind of men she was bringing home. When I was a teenager, I realized that it wasn’t my fault. Going back, when I was in fourth grade I was like Gavin because I was a straight “A” student and in the gifted classes. By high school, I was into musicals, choir and cheerleading. School was my escape to get away from home. I spent a lot of time at school. I loved school. Once I graduated from high school, I lived in Texas for three months, came back and went to college and got pregnant with my oldest child. After the first semester of college, I stayed at home and worked. When he was not quite a year old, I decided to go back to college and moved into college housing. I tried to be a new wife, new mother, and good student, and it was too much (or too overwhelming), and so I decided to take school out of the picture. I never did finish getting my degree, but I am thinking about going back.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY11 Tell me about the typical day in your life. We get up in the morning, and I fix Gavin breakfast and get his clothes ready. Now, I’m thinking of changing (his morning routine) because I do too much for him. I am trying to make him more independent and have him do more things for himself. I drive him to school. I come back home and start up work here at home. I do the medical transcriptions. I can also get some laundry done and do the dishes during this time. I try to get some phone time in so I can have some type of social life with my friends. Then I picked up Gavin and come back home. A lot of times I do work again. Sometimes I’ll pick up his friend, Levi, to come over or take Gavin over there. Then, I’ll start dinner, and we’ll watch TV; which is usually comedies. Sometimes, we will go to one of the grandkids’ baseball games, birthday parties, or go visit with my sister. During the week night, it’s hard to fit everything in when there’s homework and sports are included. And then we go to bed at about 10:30. This year, Gavin can go to bed later because he starts school in the morning later, but next year that will not happen. On the weekends, we might go to the pool, see friends, or go see my cousin which is an hour and a half away.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY12 When you go shopping where do you say you shop and most? Tell me about your food shopping. What is your favorite food? A lot of the time I go to Walmart or Aldies. Sometimes, I go to the Dollar General, but it all depends on what I need for that week. I also go to the food pantry, but I don’t let Gavin go with me. I don’t want him to have those memories or be embarrassed by that. I usually work around going there when he is not home. Sometimes, we will have community meals at different churches. It turned out to be kind of nice. That helps me spread my budget a little bit more. Gavin’s favorite food is my tuna fish salad. He also likes a good steak as he is an all meat and potato guy. He likes vegetables and he loves salad. Gavin’s new big food is Kentucky Fried Chicken. He and his friend, Levi, can eat a whole bucket by themselves. He especially likes the chocolate chip cake. I am big on pasta.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY13 Tell me about your car. How long have you had it? What happens when it needs repairs? I own a ‘94 Buick Le Sabre. Because I am a single mom, I always buy a car with my tax check. I always hope that my car makes it till the next check. Sometimes,I’ll use my tax check to do car repairs or checkups. I’d always buy a car outright because I can’t afford to do payments. I’ve been lucky over the past few years because the least amount I’ve paid for a car is $500 and the most is $1800. I have friends and family that help me find a car. (Note: when I called Kathy, she was stressed because Gavin’s dad came to visit him yesterday; which he apparently does only once every two months and when he visits he usually stays at her house. Yesterday, Gavin and his dad were playing baseball by her car and Gavin broke her taillight. Kathy asked his dad if he was going to pay for the car and he said, “No.” She said this has been typical behavior for his dad. In addition to this, Gavin’s dad spent most of his time talking about his new girlfriend.)
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY14 Tell me about what your family does when you can find time to relax. How’d you spend whatever free time you get? We usually spend it with family. My daughter-in-law is the family organizer. She usually plans one monthly Sunday dinner at her house. We may go do that. Gavin and I are big TV people. I wish we weren’t, but that’s what we can do at home for free. We really like comedies. Sometimes, we’ll go to the park. I’ll read a book while he plays. Here at the house, we’ll throw the ball here at home or I’ll take him to the batting cage. Other times, we go to my sister’s and rent a DVD and watch a movie. We’re pretty normal and laid back.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY15 Tell me about your parents, their jobs, their lives, etc. My mom worked at Indiana Bell for 20 years, had polio, and is in a wheelchair now. She is retired now. My mom grew up differently. My dad was an alcoholic, but not in the same way. He was devoted to my grandmother his whole life. They did however get divorced. So my mom grew up with my grandma and her husband. She ran a Bed and Breakfast. My mom, my aunt, and my uncle grew up pretty normally. My grandmother died when she was 46 of cancer.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY16 (continued) My dad is an interesting story. I have what I call a legal dad and a biological dad. My legal dad is what is on my birth certificate. My older sister and I have the same legal dad. They were split up when my mom met my biological dad. My mom and legal dad were separated, and my mom and my biological dad were having an affair. My mom ended up with my legal dad who died when I Was Five years old, but they were already split up again before then. So pretty much, we grew up with boyfriends in and out of the house. My mom divorced my younger sister’s dad when I was about six or seven years old. He went to jail on several charges. He was not a very good guy. My mom actually had another husband before him, but she didn’t have any children by him. And every boyfriend and husband my mom has had has passed away. We teasingly call her the Black Widow.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY17 (continued) I met my biological dad once when I was seven years old. This was after my mom was divorced from my legal dad. My mom had me pretty much turned against him, but I went into my bedroom and wouldn’t talk to him. So that’s the only time I saw my biological father my entire childhood. When I was 25, I tracked him down. I had an uncle who knew the union he worked for because he was a painter. I was able to contact the union and get an address for him, and I sent him a letter stating that I was his daughter. He responded within one week, and he responded saying he wanted to get to know me. We met. He said he knew immediately by looking at me that I was his daughter. We had a somewhat decent relationship for two years.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY18 (continued) Then, all of a sudden he didn’t want to be a part of my life because of the childhood abuse. He said that we were totally different and he didn’t like that. I think he felt guilty. So he pretty much abandoned me again when I was pregnant with my second child. He didn’t like that I was so different from him. That was 24 years ago before my second son was born, and I haven’t talked with him since. Today, I have no clue whether he’s dead or alive. I have five half siblings from his side of the family that I have met at one point. All but two of them resented me because I was the symbol of their father having an affair. He was married to his wife, but they were separated at the time. So they didn’t welcome me. His oldest daughter welcomed me, but what I didn’t know at the time was that his oldest daughter lived down the street from me and her daughter was in the same class as my son.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY19 What would you say is the one value that your parents passed on to you that it is the most important one? My mom passed on to me the value of love one another no matter what. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. I was very bitter. I have since learned to be forgiving. I went through counseling and learned that I am not alone in the burdens we bare. And I’ve learned that everyone has a story.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY20 What about your own values? What makes you angry? Sad? Happy? What trait do you respect the most in other people? Parenthood is the trait I respect most and putting your kids first. That is number one in my book absolutely without a doubt. What upsets me the most is the opposite of that which is when parents don’t take care of their kids or don’t protect their kids. I am very protective of my children. Protection is my number one priority. I grew up in this harsh world. I have a difficult time being around people, and I don’t want appear snobbish, who do not have the same values that I do or who don’t treat their kids the same way I do. I don’t have parties or expect other people to get drunk around their kids. I also get upset when I see someone drinking or smoking when they are pregnant. I believe God gave women a special gift and it’s wrong to see someone doing that. I didn’t even drink NutraSweet. The most important thing in life is to take care of these children.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY21 When confronted with a problem where do you turn for help? I turn to family, friends, church, and Mrs. Boone (Whiteland Elementary School Counselor). Gavin and Mrs. Boone are very close. It took me a long time to ask for help. In my earlier years, I was reluctant to ask for help. I got to a point where I realized that I need to be humble and ask for help. I’ve learned that there are times when everyone needs help at some point. You need to swallow your pride and accept it.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY22 How would you describe your parents’ attitudes toward school? How far did they go in school? I know that my father was illiterate because I spent a couple weeks with him at one point, and I found a postcard one time where he was part of a club where he was trying to learn literacy in order to learn how to read. He was always a painter so I didn’t know that. You wouldn’t have known that from meeting him because he was fairly well spoken. He would get mad when I sat around and read books. I finally connected the dots why that was a sore spot for him. My mom’s side of the family is very intelligent. I do believe my mom’s abuse of alcohol damaged her brain. My mom’s story is unique due to the polio. My mom had several surgeries over several years.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY23 (continued) She had to learn to walk again three different times. This is a very specific story. She was at Tech High School and she had to use her crutches to get up the stairs. Because of her braces, she fell down the stairs and got back up and tried to go up the stairs again and fell down again. At that exact moment, she decided to quit school. My mom was very artistic, and had been accepted at Heron Art for school at IUPUI. Gavin is very artistic too just like my mother. Everyone at Whiteland Elementary has been very accepting. Gavin is a very talented student; he is very sensitive, and academically astute.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY24 What do you expect out of your child’s school experience? What are your hopes for him with regards to school? I have very high hopes for Gavin. My older two children did not graduate from high school. I am very brokenhearted about that. Eric, my oldest, went to high school for five years and it boiled down to him giving a speech in class. He is very shy. When it came time to do that, he would just not show up. Bobby, my second son, was bisexual at the time. He got so much torturing in school from that situation that he decided that if he stayed in school he might hurt somebody and so he dropped out of school. So, I signed him out for home schooling. That didn’t work out real well, but both eventually achieved their GED with honors. Bobby just got his Patient Care Certification which is a step before CNA. He’s going to nursing school. Eric is working on fork lift repairs which are anything from 5 foot fork lifts to 15 foot fork lifts. He has a house, wife and three kids. All three kids are in extracurricular activities.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY25 (continued) Gavin has another path than his older brothers. Gavin is on the path that is smarter than his older brothers. I give him his vitamins. Gavin is gifted and he learns quickly. Gavin is smart and compassionate. I hope he is my one child that graduates from school. My other boys had their path and they made their way and they’re doing fine. I hope to see Gavin graduate with his high school class. I’d truly believe Gavin have special gifts and he helps to do computer graphics. I can see him succeeding in something like that. I am hoping that school will help him find what makes him happy and successful. I see him going to college. There are a variety of things that he wants to do. He is interested in computer graphics and he is interested in being a stunt actor. Gavin does like to live on the edge. He has the belief that you only live once and do what you can. It does make me nervous, but it makes it fun seeing where Gavin is going to go.
In a series from “The Atlantic” (2014), it states that more than half of the children born to mothers under the age of 30 today are born to single mothers, which means single mothers are far more likely to be poor than their married counterparts. A third of families headed by single mothers are in poverty. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY27
The Strong family is living in generational poverty. Ruby K. Payne, in her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty (2005), defines generational poverty as “having been in poverty for at least two generations; however, the patterns begin to surface much sooner than two generations if the family lives with others who are from generational poverty” (p. 47). Kathy’s family lineage would not be easy to trace because it does not follow a linear pattern. Kathy comes from a non-nuclear family. Her mother had an affair with a married man who has five other children with his wife. She said that when she lived in Greenwood, that her half-sister lived on the same street and she didn’t know it until Gavin was in the same class as her half-sister’s daughter. Kathy also has half-siblings on her mother’s side of the family, but she is only close to one of her half-sisters who lives approximately an hour and a half away. She and Gavin will often pick up a movie and go to her sister’s house to watch it. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY28
According to Payne (2005), “The mother is always at the center, though she may have multiple sexual relationships” (p. 56). Kathy has three sons by two different fathers. She is also very protective of all of her children; which she admitted to when I interviewed her. I have personally witnessed this at school as Kathy made a point to eat lunch with Gavin at the Hard Rock Café at Whiteland Elementary School. Kathy has the strength to know where to find support, and she is more than willing to ask for help. Payne (2005) states that “support systems are the friends, family, and backup resources that can be accessed in times of need” (p. 69). There was a time in her life, however, when it was hard for her to ask for help. She began going to counseling after her first son was born, and has been in and out of counseling since that time. In her interview, she said she also uses the support of family, friends, school, and the community. She is very grateful for all the help she receives. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY29
Single mothers with children continue to outnumber single fathers. However, single fathers are on the rise in the non-nuclear family. According the article “The Rise of Single Fathers” (2013), “The number of single father households has increased about ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.1 In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.” CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY30
In an article published by “National Affairs” (2010), it shows that the percentage of married with-children households declined to 51 percent in 2010; which is more than 1/3 compared to 1970. In comparison, all three other types of households percentage’s increased: married without children by 72%, single with children by 122%, and single without children by 165%. These statistics definitely show a trend that affects not only families, but the school culture and the relationships between them. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY31
The data on the relationship between single motherhood and poverty is staggering. There definitely needs to be a change in child support and government assistance programs. These programs should include counseling, public awareness and committees that are dedicated to making legal changes in our current system. Our children and students are our most valuable resource. Hence, it is vital that as a future administrator that I educate my staff and all stakeholders as to the effects that single parenthood is having on children, the schools, and the community. (ELCC 2.1, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.5) No one is exempt from the effects of our nation’s children being brought up in poverty. The data shows that it’s increasing, and education is the perfect outlet to make changes. (ELCC 1.2) CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY33
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY34 As a future principal, I hope to make a difference through educating as many people as I possible can regarding the outcomes of single-parenting and the poverty issues involved. I can speak on this from a personal level because I am a single mother of five children. All my children have the same father. It was not my choice to be a single mom as there was a significant other with our children’s father. I can personally attest to the economic changes is meant for my children and me. It was not easy. We had to move in with my parents, and eventually bought a house that was more than twice as small as the one they were raised in. I understand what single mothers are going through, and I want to make sure that all staff understands all the nuances of students who are going through a divorce and being raised by single mothers.
CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY35 It will be necessary for me to identify support services that are offered by the local community. This includes contacting the local food pantries or having a collection within our own school, community meal services, and businesses who would be willing to sponsor kids for clothing or holidays. The local Big Brothers and Big Sisters are a wonderful organization for children who lack an uninvolved parent. (ELCC 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4) As an administrator of a school, it will be my job to advocate for students, parents, and guardians. I will need to reach out to the local, state, and national leaders to influence decisions that are in the best interest of the community. (ELCC 6.1, 6.2)
References Balch, Bradley V., Pamela Frampton, and Marilyn A. Hirth. Preparing a professional portfolio: a school administrator's guide. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2006. Print. "Marriage, Parenthood, and Public Policy > Publications > National Affairs." Marriage, Parenthood, and Public Policy > Publications > National Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2014.. Payne, Ruby K.. A framework for understanding poverty. 4th rev. ed. Highlands, Tex.: aha! Process, 2005. Print. "Program Standards and Report Forms." Program Standards and Report Forms. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2014.. "The Rise of Single Fathers." Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2014.. Thompson, Derek. "The War on Poverty Turns 50: Why Aren't We Winning?." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 June 2014.. CUMMINGS: CASE STUDY37