Ahead of ‘public charge’ change, advocates struggle to keep Hispanic families enrolled in benefits

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Ahead of ‘public charge’ change, advocates struggle to keep Hispanic families enrolled in benefits

By Anthony Wallace, Daja Henry and Luke Simmons/Special for Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Cynthia Aragon stands in an elementary school library in south Phoenix, facing a group of parents not so different from her own – 11 Latinas, some in the country legally and some not.

One mother is talking about her third grader, who recently was diagnosed with autism. He struggles to speak and is falling behind his classmates. Occupational therapy would help, and is accessible through public benefits, but she is too afraid to enroll him.

Another mother has a kindergartner born with her tongue attached to the base of her mouth – a common condition easily fixed with surgery. But the family can’t afford the procedure and is scared to enroll the girl in Arizona’s Medicaid program.

Aragon’s job is to help qualified families make use of public benefits like food stamps, cash assistance and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program. A few mornings each week, she makes presentations to parents in Phoenix’s Roosevelt School District, where nearly 97% of students are minorities, most of them Hispanic.

The 25-year-old has been at this effort for more than six years. Never before has her job been so difficult.

Originally published on Cronkite News. Click here to read the story in full. Also published in the Tucson Sentinel and verdenews.com. Served as photographer and co-writer.

 

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