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Runaway Teen’s Family Profiled by The New York Times

Posted on January 10, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

See How Catholic Charities Stepped In

When Desiree Santana’s 14-year-old daughter went missing in September, she felt frantic, writes New York Times reporter Emily Palmer in this Neediest Cases profile published this past Sunday, January 7, 2018.

Ms. Santana filed a police report, but two days later she was still awaiting news. She called the local detective assigned to the case up to seven times a day, but her calls were not returned, she said. The precinct promised to send her daughter’s picture to the press, but Ms. Santana never saw it on the local news.

“To them, she was just another missing teenager from the Bronx,” Ms. Santana, 42, said during a recent interview at her childhood home in the western part of the borough. “She seemed like just another kid who was disobedient and ran away.”

But Ms. Santana, a single mother of six, refused to give up the search for her daughter, Sarah.

It once seemed there was nothing Ms. Santana could not overcome:  an impoverished childhood, two younger brothers with developmental disabilities she had to care for, a spouse who left her, and raising six children alone. 

Despite all this she put herself through college, made sure her oldest daughters went to college and raised all her children so well that they landed parochial school scholarships.  But when Ms. Santana’s middle daughter, Sarah, began disappearing from home, Ms. Santana’s need to take emergency unpaid family medical leave to pull her daughter through her crises pushed the entire family to the brink of poverty and homelessness.

Ms. Santana is clearly the glue that holds her family together.  But, like so many New Yorkers, Ms. Santana lived on the edge of financial ruin despite a college degree.  Her salary, that might easily cover expenses and some savings in many other states, barely made ends meet here in NYC.  One medical emergency, one unanticipated expense, turned out to mean the difference between a lower-middle class life style and poverty and possible eviction. 

Catholic Charities eviction prevention specialists cobbled together funds to prevent the family’s eviction while providing the support Ms. Santana needed to address the family’s biggest challenge, how to help Sarah.  Finally, after years of trying, they were able to enroll Sarah in a residential school where she receives the treatment she needs.  Ms. Santana, in turn, was able to return to work and support her family.

“My children and I almost lost our home.  They saved our home, Ms. Santana says. “Everyone there is so sympathetic and effective. There are no words to express how thankful I am to Catholic Charities.”

Read Ms. Santana’s full Neediest Cases profile in The New York Times

Find out more about Catholic Charities free eviction prevention services