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This Former Teen Mom Created A Nonprofit To Empower Homeless Mothers

Human Interest

The words "don't forget me" can be summarized as an emotional plea for anyone who wants to always be remembered in the minds of those they may have shared a connection with. That's the very reason that those hope-filled words became the very name for Simone Goss's foundation.


Don't 4Get Me: The Frances Canty Foundation is a nonprofit that provides aid to teen moms who are homeless or in foster care. It's a befitting name for an organization that seeks to aggressively help young mothers who are often pushed aside and forgotten about in our society. The founder Simone knows from firsthand experience how imperative it is to have an organization targeted to this specific group of girls, as she was once in their shoes.

When she was 15 years old, she and her siblings were removed from their father's home and placed in the foster care system. At the time, she was also pregnant. "It was the most traumatic and scariest point in my life because here I am, I'm 15 and I'm pregnant and I'm separated from my family. I'm worried to death about my siblings and I didn't know where they were and I couldn't get in touch with them. You hear so many horror stories about the foster care system and things that can happen. I couldn't even think straight and I still had to go to school," she recalled.

Simone Goss

However, shortly after giving birth to her son, Simone was placed in a home and things began to turn around. The home was Frances Canty's and she quickly became the positive influence that Simone needed in her life. Frances not only took in Simone and her newborn baby, but she also welcomed her siblings in the home as well and they were back together living under one roof. Her selflessness and affection toward Simone and her family is one of the good, but rare stories you hear about with foster homes and it left a long-lasting impact on Simone's life.

"She just wanted me to be the best that I could be and she pushed me to do that so it was only right that I named my organization after her. She herself was [also] a teen mom so I found out it was a cycle repeating itself. She helped myself and quite a few other teen moms, and now I'm doing the same thing," she shared.

Simone Goss

Today, Simone is 37 years old, and shares three kids and a stepdaughter with her loving and supportive husband who gave her that extra push to start her nonprofit. Because of Frances and her profound influence that ultimately gave her a better life, Simone wanted to do the same for other girls who don't have access to people and resources that can guide them in the right direction. Created in June 2016, Don't 4Get Me: The Frances Canty Foundation gives back to pregnant teens who are homeless or in foster care with programs and events that are designed to help them professionally and emotionally.

These programs include Dress for Success Workshops, GED prep, parenting classes, clothing drives, and this past June they hosted a community baby shower where 12 lucky girls walked away with quality strollers, car seats, and invaluable knowledge from an OB-GYN and a Lactation Specialist. "Being a teen mom and going to the doctor, you face judgment. Sometimes from the doctor themselves, sometimes from the nurses, and sometimes from the other patients. So you're a little funny about asking questions because you're already feeling a little insecure with people looking at you like you don't know what you're doing, so we had an OB-GYN speak to the girls and answer questions that they may not be able to ask their regular OB-GYN," she explained.

As much as she enjoys assisting teen moms, her favorite part of running Don't 4Get Me is the moment when she breaks down the wall that many girls put up when they first walk into the room. She remembered being that girl once and having that same attitude whenever someone would try to talk to her. For her, when the wall finally comes down, she knows that she is that much closer to helping these girls change their lives.

One of Simone's newer projects is working to open up transitional homes for teen moms in all of NYC's boroughs and even out of state so they can have a place to get much needed resources as well as emergency items for themselves and their babies. "There are 750,000 teen pregnancies a year, which is huge and people just kinda write teen moms off. It's kinda like help the baby, but they don't realize that the teen moms are the ones that need help the most because they are the ones raising the future. I want to bring a huge awareness to help prevent it and to help the girls that's in it just so they know that their life isn't over. To say, 'Ok, this happened but we're gonna get through it and you can still do and be who you want to be,'" she stated firmly.

Dont4getMe.org

Check out Simone Goss and her foundation at dont4getme.org and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @dont4getmefcf.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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