California schools doing social work as recession tightens

It's just a latch under the hood of the car.

But when that latch is jammed and fluid is leaking, it becomes more than just a latch.

Particularly for Sonya Arceneaux – recently unemployed and the mother of two Inderkum High School students who need rides to and from school.

As the recession squeezes more Sacramento area families, school counselors, psychologists and teachers say children are feeling the pressures. And schools are increasingly being called upon to calm their anxieties, to counsel their parents and to help some families find places to live.

Arceneaux, 37, and her children spent several weeks moving between motel rooms and the homes of family and friends before settling into subsidized, Section 8 housing with the help of Natomas Unified School District counselors.

Their new place is too far from Inderkum High for the children to walk, but Arceneaux said it's important for them to remain there. Her daughter Renitra, 17, wants to finish her senior year at Inderkum – with her friends. And she wants to go to college.

A little after 7 a.m. one recent morning, Arceneaux had borrowed her ex-husband's car to get the kids to school. Renitra sat in the back seat, sleepy-eyed and tense.

"Mom, is that right?" she said, pointing to the digital clock in the dash, worried about the flak she might get from her first-period teacher for another tardy. "I don't want to be late."

With the economy souring, schools have been pushed to devote added resources and attention to social work and counseling.

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