I had my firsts “extended” stay at the social security office this past week. I went with the case worker Ahmed Kamil and we were registering a family of seven for their social security numbers and cards. The line was long as usual, but when we got to the social security worker’s booth, that is when things became difficult. Ahmed told me there are a few people at the social security office that know CRIS well and can get them through the process quickly, but the lady who served us had never worked with CRIS and did not “specialize” in registering people for social security. It took her quite some time to type each family member’s personal information, and just as I thought we were wrapping up a problem arises. The lady pulls the application for one of the younger girls, a quizzical look of doubt crosses her face as she raises an eye brow and asks, “why is this girl’s mother and father different than the other children’s?”
Ahmed calmly replies, “This girl’s parents were deceased and the family cared for her in the camps since she was young”
The lady announces “I’m sorry you can’t register for her card unless her original parents gave official guardianship to this couple” as if her assessment of the situation was finite and clear to everybody in the room.
I was irate to say the least, but Ahmed keeps a level head and attempts to explain to the lady that such documents don’t exist in the camps, or in Africa at large really, but the lady would not budge. Eventually she spoke to her supervisor and everything was squared away, but only after a 3 1/2 hour ordeal. Ahmed told me they run into these types of problems all the time and the high turnover rate means it is hard to have consistency, but the ones who have worked there a while understand the barriers and obstacles CRIS’s case workers deal with and speed up the social security registration process for us.
I have been working extensively with another group of 3 single Somali males who are all rooming together to lower their rent. Their caseworker Dahir is worried about one of the younger Somali guys who doesn’t seem to understand life in America yet. Obviously he is not expected to have a full grasp on life in Columbus seeing he has only been in the US for two weeks, but his priorities are out of place. Dahir thinks he does not quite understand that not everything is given to him like it was in the camps, and the guy is more concerned with getting a gaming device to play FIFA soccer than he is securing a job or paying his rent. I guess it’s the first time I realized younger clients can get so caught up with getting to America they don’t always realize the life adjustments and priority adjustments they will face in their new reality.