By Leslie Kuehner

By Leslie Kuehner

As a Catholic Charities case worker, I have to be creative in my thinking.

Click here to read the entire February 2020 newsletter

As the library doors open, I see rows of shelved books, eager students at work, and several librarians helping visitors sift through a maze of literature. I walk in and beeline my way toward a small table, whereupon the young mother I am meeting texts me to say she’s running late. As a Family Development Specialist for Children & Family Services, I meet clients in a variety of urban and rural locations, today just happens to be at a library in a small town (1,700 population) a 45-minute drive from our Kansas City offices.

I came prepared, complete with diapers, food, hygiene, a county resource binder, a variety of paperwork, domestic violence safety resources — hopefully not needed, but just in case. My client arrives, carrying her beautiful 9-month-old baby girl.

When this client first came to Catholic Charities, she had been homeless for several months due to instability with her baby’s father. She didn’t want to move to Kansas City, so as not to disrupt her older child’s schooling. In addition, she recently secured a stable job with an understanding boss at a local restaurant. All these factors played into our time together as we brainstormed ways to further her parenting skills and self-sufficiency. For a few nights, we assisted her and her two children with an emergency hotel stay, so she was excited to share she had successfully landed a rental home. This could give her and her children some much-needed stability.

However, as with many clients who experience brief success, it can quickly be derailed. She relays her frustration of trying to keep other family members from overtaking the home she’s waited so long to have. The rest of our meeting I shared the food, hygiene supplies, and diapers I brought as we discussed the ins-and-outs of baby nutrition. We set a time and location to meet next month so we could grocery shop as her SNAP benefits have recently lapsed.

As we depart, she expresses her gratitude for the assistance, as she does every time we meet. I admire her resiliency and I leave with a deeper gratitude for my family, my home and the food we have. I’m even more motivated to empower clients like her.

As a Catholic Charities case worker, I have to be creative in my thinking—a solution for a homeless person in the urban core of Jackson County is different than a solution for a homeless person in a small town. Moreover, every client’s story contains unique trauma and situational intricacies with family relationships, intimate partners, and children’s developmental issues, which can make it challenging to provide the necessary help. Knowing how to serve the whole person requires an in-depth knowledge of available resources, educational expertise, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Each of our clients are accompanied by a trained case manager who takes the time to tailor solutions to meet their needs. Of the 328 people we helped last year, 99% self-reported an increase in parenting knowledge necessary for raising safe and healthy kids.

Our goal is to lift clients to the dignity of self-reliance. We understand this doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistent, steady support, the pathway out of poverty is possible.

For more information on our Mom’s Empowerment program, contact Nancy at or at (816) 659-8285.


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