Jul 31, 2023

Season for Caring, SAFE Alliance, Juana Betancurt

Isaac Pera-Betancurt, 11, had one word to describe his mom not being home, his siblings taking care of him and living in two bedroom apartment — normal.

"It's a normal," he said.

The last five years of his life, despite hardships and struggles, have simply been normal for Isaac. For his mom, Juana Betancurt, 38, and the rest of his family it has slowly become routine as well.

After dropping off her children at school, Betancurt leaves for work for her two cleaning jobs and doesn't get home until late in the evening, barely being able to say goodnight to her little ones.

This has been her life since her husband was arrested and deported to Mexico because of domestic violence. Betancurt said he is not present in their life and has not provided any financial support, she said. He communicates with them when he can.

Caring for her children alone has come with its share of challenges, she said. At the beginning it was difficult but now it has become routine, she said.

"You learn to accept what your life has become," she said.

$1 for the first 3 months.

Betancurt is mother to Nancy, 17, Jose, 13, Isaac, 11, Ezequiel, 9, Neome, 8, and David, 4. She has an older daughter who is now out of the house.

The family of seven live in a two-bedroom apartment and have turned the living room into a third bedroom.

The family is on the waiting list for housing through the Children's Home Initiative program with Foundation Communities, which provides affordable housing throughout Austin. Although on the waiting list, it could be more than a year before they get housing, said Florencio Barron of SAFE Alliance, which nominated the family to Season for Caring.

Betancurt worries that she is not being a good mother because she is working multiple jobs and isn't always able to be there for her children..

It took time for her kids to understand why she was gone for most of the day. She said they were mad at her, they wouldn't hug her; her family was broken, they didn't trust her, she said.

Nancy and Jose at 17 and 13 have taken on the role of caregivers to the four younger children.

"The kids wonder, why us," she said. "Why us, we aren't the parents," Betancurt said her kids asked her.

Now, Nancy and Jose are always ready to help dress the youngest for school and preparing dinner when Betacurt is at work.

"Years later, they understand what is happening, and understand that I have to work to provide for all of us," she said.

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Season for Caring photos: Betancurt family

The Betancurt family's biggest wish was to have a bigger home.

With the help of the SAFE Alliance, Juana and her kids were able to find a semblance of normal and move past the trauma they've had. It was until very recently that Betancurt stopped looking at herself as a victim.

Now when she gets home, its hugs and kisses all over and everyone's content to share beds.

"Everyone's supports me, they love me," she said.

More:Read more Season for Caring stories

The Betancurt family's wishes:

A four-bedroom home; a gently used car; financial assistance to pay rent, utilities, internet and cable service; mentorship and support to start her own food truck business; financial adviser; college tuition for Nancy; driving lessons for Nancy; bunk beds, sheets and bedding; a laptop for Nancy, a desktop computer for family to share; living room couch; a lamp; a washer and a dryer; dressers; bath and hand towels; a shower curtain; bathroom cleaning supplies; vacuum; cooking ware; a microwave; pots and pans; a dish set for eight; cups and glasses; a dining table to seat eight; curtains and blinds; home decor; a vanity; a PlayStation and games; Fortnite bucks; gift cards to H-E-B and Walmart.

Wish list available on Amazon.

Nominated by: The SAFE Alliance, PO Box 19454., Austin, TX 78760. 512-665-1858

Its mission: The SAFE Alliance exists to stop abuse for everyone by serving the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, exploitation and domestic violence.

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