Throughout her life, Louise has been a taxi driver, cook, bouncer, waitress, gas jockey, dispatcher and even a grave digger. But those jobs scarcely prepared her for when, in May 1998, she was forced to take legal custody of two of her grandchildren.
“Almost a year before, I kind of inherited the kids,” said Louise, “but then I was obligated to take legal custody of six year old Cody and Andrew who turned four last September. My third grandchild, nine month old Gauge, is a frequent visitor.”
Cody, who started kindergarten last fall also came with something else - Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). His condition requires daily medication.
Louise worried about affording daycare. “I was quickly getting to the point where I would have to quit my job to provide the daycare I couldn't afford. I had always worked, but with daycare costs of around $595 for each child, I was heading toward welfare.”
The children were on “child in need” status in Alberta that provided them with dental and health coverage as well as some childcare or daycare expenses. “Child in Need” help amounted to about $81 for each child. “I was finding it pretty tough to raise two children on $162 a month, and with Cody’s medical disorder, most of that money could easily go for medicine,” said Louise.
At that point, the Canada Child Tax Benefit, which includes the National Child Benefit Supplement, provided Louise with an added benefit of $352 per month.
“Basically, the National Child Benefit made the difference between me being able to work or having to go on welfare,” said Louise. “What the CCTB has done is given me freedom to hang on to dignity and work. Even though it’s a struggle, I don’t have to beg for assistance. It’s given me pride, dignity and self worth.” She continues her work as a call centre customer service representative. It’s work that allows her to be home nights and weekends.
Louise knows enough about food banks and welfare and their effects on the family. “If the parent has pride and good feelings about themselves, the children see that,” she says. “The six year old knows if something’s bothering grandma - he’s very sensitive.”