Restoring Confidence

My children were able to see the good in people and learn that people genuinely care about our family.
“My children were able to see the good in people and learn that people genuinely care about you. Everyone at Differential Response did their best to get my family back on our feet and on a successful path.”
There are no certainties in life. The guarantee of a roof over your head, food on the table and a healthy family can be taken away in a heartbeat. The family of Mark and Martina knows this all too well. This close-knit family of five has been faced with insurmountable obstacles that have tested their strength as a family and challenged them to work towards rebuilding their life.
Mark and Martina worked hard raising their three children, Mark Jr., Mia, and Sandy, over the course of their 20 year marriage. The loving and supportive parents instilled principles in them that they hoped would help lead them to successful and empowering lives. The highest regarded value in the their household? Education. “As a parent, you want the world for your children”, says Martina. “My mom and dad wanted that for me, they raised me to value education and showed me how a good job provided for a family”.
The children attended the Gloucester Township School District since kindergarten and all three were high academic achievers. With their future looking bright, Mark Jr., set his sights on attending the honors program at Highland High School. But in the winter of 2008 the family would come face to face with their first obstacle and a domino effect of hardships was soon to follow.
Mark Sr. was diagnosed with leukemia and was soon unable to continue working. Martina was also unemployed at the time and was collecting unemployment, an amount too little to support a family of five. After weeks of trying to secure a stable home, they had no choice but to move into their car. In an instant, their lives were turned upside down.
The family only spent one night in their car but one night was enough for Martina. “I don’t know what it would have been like to not have a place for my children to sleep”, says Martina. “We were on the brink of real homelessness”. It was only after she found a phone booth and scanned through the Yellow Pages did she find 211 who then connected her with the program that would keep her and her family off the streets.
The Department of Children and Families Statewide Central Registry (SCR) received a distraught phone call from the family who needed emergency assistance with homelessness; the thought of continuing to live out of their car had become too much of a strain on the family, emotionally and mentally. SCR referred the family to the Camden PARTNERS Differential Response (DR) Program, a case management service initiative funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and provided by Center For Family Services (CFS) in partnership with the Community Planning & Advocacy Council (CPAC) and the Hispanic Family Center in Camden County.
The family was terribly distressed when Differential Response first met them. Mark Jr. was angry and shut down and Martina was depressed and hopeless. Mark Sr.’s cancer had progressed and he was now on a wait list for a bone marrow transplant. “My only goal was to live long enough to see my children graduate from high school”, said Mark. Even though they were struggling, case managers still observed the family’s strength of communication. They had an exceptional ability to comfort and support each other and most importantly to work as a team.
The Family Resource Specialist from Differential Response wasted no time tackling the family's problems, laying out their issues, goals, and how to achieve their goals. “It’s still fresh in my memory when they sat with us to face our problems”, says Martina. “The risks, our needs; we had a targeted intervention in each area. They covered everything; it was life changing and we are forever grateful”.
Differential Response provided housing resources and advocated on behalf of the family, eventually finding an apartment that was approved by Section 8. Martina utilized the Clementon Family Success Center at CFS to search for employment, eventually; landing a job with Volunteers of America, where she remains employed to this day. She was given resources for counseling and reports that her depression has subsided.
Mark Sr.’s health also turned around. Through the use of therapies and medications his doctors decided that he is no longer in need of a bone marrow transplant. Lastly, the children, all three of them, are on the honor roll and were able to remain in the Gloucester Township School District. “The best way to be prepared for life’s challenges is to have an education. I don’t want them to have to struggle the way my husband and I struggled”, says Martina.
It’s been almost a year since the family has been back on their feet, frequently checking in with Differential Response and updating them on their accomplishments. Just last month the family attended the annual Differential Response Conference, speaking on the many successes that can come from thoughtful and intensive family-driven case management services.
“They are a warm and loving family. Mark and Martina demonstrated great courage by voluntarily standing up and speaking in front of 300 participants at the National Differential Response Conference”, states Madhuri Rodriguez, Director of PARTNERS Differential Response at CPAC. “Both parents have shown that they want to stay engaged to help other families and we truly appreciate their support.”
The ultimate key to their success? Faith and hard work claims Martina. “I know that everyone handles things differently but have faith; that’s what helped me believe we wouldn’t sink completely. Seek out support, whether it’s through CFS or a family member, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be discouraged when you reach one door and it shuts.”
“My children were able to see the good in people and learn that people genuinely care about you. Everyone at Differential Response did their best to get my family back on our feet and on a successful path.”