OKLAHOMA CITY - The life of a young mother changed completely when she walked into the Caddo County office of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) in April 2012.
Crystal Hardin moved from Texas to Oklahoma as a nineteen year old mother with a six month old son. She had very little money and only a handful of clothes. She stayed with relatives in Caddo County and began her search for a better life for herself and her little boy.
She needed help. And she got it.
Hardin qualified for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federal program that provides temporary support to meet basic needs, provide employment services and training, and help with child care assistance for qualified families.
Hardin's caseworker, Traci Allen, enlisted the help of Career Development Specialist Paula Moore to develop a work plan for Hardin as she moved toward independence.
Initially intending to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and with encouragement from Ronda Weaver, Coordinator for the TANF Advanced Program at the Caddo Kiowa Technology Center, Hardin enrolled in the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program at the Canadian Valley Technology Center in Chickasha.
"TANF paid for my course and helped get me scrubs," said Hardin. "It even helped out with gas money. I almost made it through the whole course, but got kicked out because of my attitude."
The DHS staff recognized that Hardin needed more than just financial help so they suggested she choose a class she might like better.
"I decided that nursing wasn't the right thing for me," said Hardin, "so I enrolled in an administrative assistant class. It was a better fit for me. I loved it!"
Hardin also participated in the Work Experience Program (WEP), which provides job skills and work enhancements to TANF participants and helps them move toward self-sufficiency.
"Crystal impressed everyone in the office," said Fred Ikard, DHS county director. "Her administrative assistant skill sets and inclinations toward customer service were so strong we asked her if she wanted to help in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). It was a defining moment in Crystal's journey toward self-reliance."
Ikard said Hardin excelled at her LIHEAP work and when a clerical position became available, she was a candidate for the job.
But there was another challenge. Hardin was still taking administrative assistant classes and did not yet meet the minimum requirements of education and experience for the clerical position. In order to get the proper training, Hardin participated in the Social Work Internship Program (SWIP) until she met the qualifications for the administrative assistant position. She was hired fulltime on May 1, 2013 and her TANF case closed the following month.
"Crystal has come full circle," said Ikard. "In just 14 months, she went from being a single parent in need of DHS assistance to a DHS employee no longer receiving assistance. She is the epitome of what a TANF success story should be."
Hardin put in the hard work, but she is grateful she had help from so many others along the way.
"I couldn't have done it without TANF helping me financially," said Hardin. "With the help of DHS and the Caddo Kiowa Tech Center, I know I can do anything I set my mind to. They have totally changed the way I think and act. I have my own place now, my own vehicle, and I've got my self-confidence back."
To learn more about TANF eligibility, follow this link http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/tanf, or contact your local or county DHS office.