Sharon Ramos would do anything for her kids. As a single parent, sometimes that means she has to spend time away from them. In order to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads, she works full-time in the food service industry. Her four children, ages 4 to 11, attend Catholic Charities Child Care Centers and afterschool programs in the Back of the Yards community.

“I was 15 years old when I had my first child. Now I’m 27 and a single mom of four kids who are all pretty close in age. It’s hard to keep up with everything. I used to take my kids to a babysitter for the times when I was at work. It wasn’t the best choice but it was the only choice I thought I had.

When I would pick my kids up from the babysitter, they always seemed to be depressed. Sometimes they would say they had fun but it wasn’t like they were getting the attention they needed. It was expensive, too. I was spending so much of my paycheck on the babysitter I wondered if it would be better if it was me watching them instead. But I needed to work. I was desperate for someone I could truly trust with my kids.

About three years ago, a friend told me about Catholic Charities. Now, my three older children are a part of the afterschool program and my youngest goes to the Catholic Charities Child Care Center. They get help with their homework, and get exercise in the gym. They get to be with other kids and people they look up to. Since they’ve gone to Catholic Charities, my children are more outgoing. Their personalities are stronger. They love the teachers and their friends there. It also helps me to have flexibility with my job. In the summer, when school lets out, I sign them up for Catholic Charities summer program. They take them out to field trips and do a lot of fun things, but are learning at the same time. They’re not just chilling out. They’re learning new things, and reading new books.

My youngest, who is 4, now knows how to write her name and can do simple math. She knows her colors, shapes, and how old she is. It makes me so happy to know that when it’s time for her to go to kindergarten, she’ll be ready.

I try to be involved with them as much as I can. There is so much I want to protect them from: gun violence, abuse, neglect, bullying. It all piles up. My biggest fear is for my girls to get pregnant at an early age. I don’t want them to go through the same things I went through. I want them to know what’s out there and how they can control it.

I’m so proud of my children. Everything about them. Despite the fact that I’m a single parent, and I can’t be there for them as much as I would like to be, their grades are really, really good. To the teachers and staff at catholic Charities, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the support. They’ve helped me out a lot as a parent. They helped my kids feel like part of a family.