When a family crisis prompted Marilyn Fabellar to move from Los Angeles to San Diego, she began searching for ways she could contribute to her new community. She initially began working with Home Start as a volunteer in our VITA tax preparation program. Her background in finance made her invaluable in helping families file their taxes, leading to her being hired in 2017 to manage the Jacobs Center program.
As the tax season ended, Marilyn’s desire to continue to serve her community pushed her to test her skills in some of Home Start’s other programs, including her current role as a Case Manager for the previously incarcerated.
Hello Marilyn, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to enlighten us about your work in recognition of National Social Work Month.
But first, tell us a little about yourself outside of work.
I am originally from the Philippines where I graduated with my bachelors degree. I have two siblings whom I am very close to, although we are living continents apart. I love to travel with friends and family and have visited Europe, Canada and Japan several times. I want to see many more countries and experience their culture. This pandemic is making me crazy since I can’t go anywhere. Books are my best friends and watching Netflix rom-com movies and Korean TV series make things bearable.
The pandemic is driving us all a little crazy. It’s good that you’re able to find an escape.
It would be great if you could first help us understand your role with Home Start as a Case Manager.
My primary task is to connect with disadvantaged groups of the community, particularly the post-incarceration re-entry population. I connect them with services and deliver support that is essential for their stabilization. I keep them motivated in moving forward and eventually becoming productive members of society.
How do you see your work making an impact here in San Diego?
What I do as a Case Manager is in alignment with Home-Start’s mission to assure the safety of children by strengthening the families and community as a whole. I help clients get back on their feet. Finding a job after years of incarceration is extremely liberating. My clients regain the ability to sustain themselves and provide for their families, which makes the community stronger.
It’s so important to help those that have been rehabilitated are able to regain their foothold and make a meaningful contribution to society again without falling back into negative circumstances or becoming homeless. Do you find this a difficult process for many of the clients you work with?
In my current program, the initial contact with clients is usually very difficult. I can see in their eyes the fear of what is ahead of them when they exit the half-way house. One woman, a single mom, had been incarcerated for four years and, as a result, got separated from her only daughter who was two years old at the time. She recognized the mistakes she had made in the past and was very pro-active in attending and completing our trainings. I followed her case closely and was with her all the way when she needed the support that Home Start provides. She started working for two restaurants until she finished a welding training class and got hired to work at NASSCO with a significant pay increase. She has since reconnected with her father and is staying with him, building up her savings account and looking forward to being reunited with her daughter.
Have you also worked in other Home Start programs in the past?
I previously worked in the Family Self-Sufficiency program where the population I served were mostly refugees. One family who came into the United States nearly three months before were struggling financially, unemployed and relying completely on government aid. The husband could barely speak english, but the wife could a little. They were very worried that their benefits would run out after 90 days. I encouraged both to continue attending Adult Continuing Education to improve their language skills while I looked for job opportunities for them. An opening at Walmart came up and I assisted the wife in filling out the application and she ended up getting hired. Several weeks later the husband got hired to work on a farm. They called with such excitement and eventually were able to get their own apartment and were very proud that they would no longer need to rely on government subsidies.
We love hearing stories like those! They clearly illustrate why work like yours is so vital to the health of our most vulnerable communities and whywe need to recognize these efforts all year round as well as during National Professional Social Work Month.
Marilyn, thank you again for sharing your insights and drawing attention to the incredible work you and all of our Home Start staff are doing. Do you have any last words of wisdom to share?