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Aging Out
My Story
David Griffin
Risa Bejarano
Daniella Anderson
Keely Lopez
Thomas Hudson

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Keely looks at her self in the mirror

A month after Keely applied for welfare benefits, she discovered that she had an additional reason to seek public assistance.

KEELY: It's a little harder now that I found out I was pregnant because now I really got to struggle, really let public assistance know what's going on. I really need the help more than I needed it before. I'm scared because now I got to change my whole life plan.

When Phil first found out that Keely was pregnant, he was surprised, disappointed and kind of scared for her. He talked to Keely about what changes that might bring in her life. As a soon-to-be mother, she would no longer be able to go out with her friends at a drop of a hat.

Keely discusses her pregnancy with Phil
I'm ready. When I found out I was pregnant, it was so shocking.  I was scared, I didn't know what to do.
KEELY: I won't be able to now. I won't be able to go clubbing or nothing. It really doesn't bother me. I'm ready. When I found out I was pregnant, it was so shocking. I was scared, I didn't know what to do. I had to have an abortion before and I refuse to do it again. I wanted to keep my baby because I just wanted something else in my life.

Three months pregnant, facing the frightening prospect of homelessness, Keely returned to the welfare center to find out what assistance the government could offer. Since she was a single person, she would receive $215 per month for shelter or rent and she was entitled to $139 in food stamps. Once she had her child, both subsidies would increase.

Keely with her newborn
KEELY: Before I turned to welfare, I was facing a lot of things. They were about to evict me, so that means I would probably have to go to a homeless shelter. That's why I turned to welfare, to see if they could just give me a little bit of help because now I'm pregnant. What am I supposed to do if I get homeless? I don't want to live in a homeless shelter. I'm disappointed in myself. I feel like I'm freeloading. I don't want to feel like that. I know people are going to be like, "Well, I don't understand how she's having a baby and she can't even afford to take care of it." But after I have the baby, I am going to work. I don't want to be on public assistance all my life.


Video of Keely with her baby
Keely had her child, a baby girl she named Nayana Avani Lopez Marks. Though she remained on welfare, Keely was hopeful she could eventually get off public assistance.

KEELY: It hasn't hit me yet, that I'm really a mother. Her name is Nayana Avani Lopez Marks. She was born on Halloween. She's going to be a little witch. I wanted a little girl so she could be like my little doll. I could do her hair. We could do mother things. Boys, you can't even dress them that cute like you could dress a little girl. I haven't felt that much joy until she really came to this world. I don't need to depend on anyone else to love me because I know she will.

I'll try the best I can to make sure she doesn't get into foster care. She's so precious already to me that I'll make sure that nothing happens to her. Now I do have somebody that loves me back. I feel like I got my own family.

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