Maria’s Story

Maria lives with her current boyfriend and her two children in an apartment they rent. Before they moved in together, her boyfriend was always doting on her and her kids, but over the past year he has become increasingly violent. She thought about leaving with her kids, but he threatened to call Child Protective Services (CPS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because she’s undocumented. Recently, he was so violent that she thought about calling the police but was afraid that she would be deported, leaving her kids, who are citizens, in the United States without her.  

One night her boyfriend came home and started throwing things to intimidate her. She made sure that her kids were in a different room and occupied when he started getting violent. She was afraid all night that a neighbor would call the police because her boyfriend continued to yell at her. She thinks the police would immediately call ICE or arrest both her and her boyfriend.

Law Enforcement

Family Protective Services

The next week, a CPS caseworker comes to the apartment right after Maria gets off work. The caseworker explains that CPS had an anonymous call alleging that Maria’s children were in danger. Maria suspects that maybe a neighbor called CPS but also thinks that it could be her boyfriend retaliating against her. She answers their questions and tells them about the ongoing abuse. She talks about how it feels like an impossible situation right now because she doesn’t have anywhere else to stay or any other source of income that could make living on her own manageable. The caseworker looks at her file and sees that the call that came in indicated she was taking drugs and so they order her to take a drug test. It comes back positive for low levels of marijuana. Her CPS caseworker tells her that she has two options: she can either relocate to a domestic violence shelter in the area or her kids will be placed in foster care until she can complete classes and remain drug free.

She can’t imagine being away from her kids for an undefined amount of time so agrees to pack up and go to the shelter. It feels unfair that she is the one that has to leave since this all started because of her boyfriend. The caseworker gave her a hotline number to call for a shelter that is about 15 minutes from her apartment on the bus line. When she calls, an advocate answers and asks her about her situation. She’s transferred to another person who asks her the same questions again, but then tells her that the shelter is full. Maria is worried about what the caseworker might do and asks the advocate for options. The advocate gives her four numbers to other shelters in the area. The third number Maria calls finally has a space available which she immediately jumps to accept.

Family Violence Service Providers

She then finds out it is 45 minutes away and not accessible by public transportation. She’s determined to make it work, though, and tells the advocate that she and the kids will be there that night.

 The first week at the shelter is a hard adjustment, especially moving from their own apartment into communal living. There isn’t much for the kids to do after school or on the weekends, and they keep complaining that they can’t go home. Since she wasn’t able to make it to work due to lack of transportation, she lost her job and is starting to worry about what she will do once her 30-day stay is up. Maria has only heard from the CPS caseworker once to let her know that they reached the shelter but isn’t sure what else she can be doing. It’s been a week, and she still hasn’t met with her case manager through the shelter. Some of the other residents tried to show her how to sign up for public benefits through the “Your Texas Benefits” app on her phone and even explained that her kids would be eligible because they were born in the US. She worries about being put on a list if she signs up for any benefits for either herself or her kids and deletes the app.

After eight days, she finally meets with her case manager at the shelter who asks her about her top goals. She explains that she just wants to keep her kids together, with her, and talks about her fears associated with being undocumented. The case manager gives her three numbers to call for immigration lawyers and doesn’t have much more information for her. Maria asked about any available financial assistance since she’s been out of work for a week now. The case manager asks her if she had a police report, so she could possibly apply for Crime Victim Compensation, but Maria explains that she never called the police on her boyfriend.

All of the waiting and the unknown is causing Maria to have anxiety attacks and lash out. She has made some friends at the shelter and, one day while her kids are at school, she takes a couple of pills from them to help her cope with the stress. The next day, an advocate finds some of the pills while doing a room check and tells her that she will have to be immediately exited since she had drugs on the premises. Maria is completely distraught and calls the CPS caseworker to explain the situation and beg her for another option. When the CPS caseworker learns that she has been exited due to drugs, she tells Maria that the kids will need to be placed somewhere else until she can be drug-free. With her kids taken away, no job, and no other options, Maria considers going back to her boyfriend where she at least knows there will be a roof over her head and food.

She ends up calling her sister who agrees to let her crash on her couch for a limited amount of time. The next couple of weeks go by in a blur. Maria is able to get a waitressing job that pays minimum wage, plus tips, nearby, and talk to her kids on the phone every so often. Her boyfriend finds out that she is staying with her sister and has started harassing her through texts and sending countless Facebook messages.

Relationship & Social Support

Criminal Justice System & Legal Services

She thinks he might be stalking her, too, but doesn’t call the police because she figures they won’t do anything based on her previous encounters with law enforcementShe has been looking for a new apartment so that she can show the CPS caseworker more stability and get off her sister’s couch. She found out that she has an eviction on her record from years ago that is just now showing up, and it’s been hard to find places she knows will take undocumented tenants.

Maria remembers the numbers the case manager gave her for legal immigration help and calls them. They explain that there is a year and a half wait-list for pro bono assistance, or she could pay $3,000 as a retainer fee for an attorney. Maria does the math and realizes that it would take her months to save up that kind of money if it was the only thing she was paying for and gets discouraged. She feels like everything is working against her and wonders what her life would be like now if her neighbor hadn’t called the Child Protective Services.

Texas Council on Family Violence
PO Box 163865
Austin, TX 78716

P 512.794.1133
F 512.685.6397

© 2020 Texas Council on Family Violence