Fighting for Families - United Way of Greater St. Louis

Monolito was 43-years-old and single, with no kids. According to him, that was the plan. Living in Iowa City and working full-time, Monolito had no intentions of changing his routine. Then, one day, a phone call transformed his life forever.

“I got a call from my nephew,” Monolito says. At the time, Monolito’s nephew had two daughters under the age of five. He asked Monolito to take the girls for a couple of weeks. Over the next few days, following subsequent calls from the girls’ mother and a social worker, Monolito learned that his nephew and the girls’ mother were going to be incarcerated, and she was pregnant with a third child.

Monolito was faced with the decision to forfeit the freedoms of his single life and become the father of two toddlers and a newborn, or let the girls find a home elsewhere, potentially being separated in the process. Although becoming a father was not in his plans, Monolito agreed to formally adopt the three girls. For him, the need to keep them together as a family was most important. But, he didn’t have much time to prepare for this major life transition.

 

In order for the state to agree to let Monolito bring the girls home, he had to find a bigger space. “I had a one-bedroom apartment, and had three weeks to find an apartment big enough for all three kids.” Immediately after finding a place to accommodate them all, the baby was born.

“It was a Friday afternoon and they wanted to know how soon I could pick her up,” Monolito says. Two and a half hours away and without a car, he took a bus to meet his newest daughter.

He stayed with the baby for two days before bringing her home. “I signed the birth certificate. I named her. I bonded with her. I changed her, fed her,” he recalls. Then, it was time for a new life with his three daughters. Initially it was daunting.

 

“What have I done?” Monolito remembers thinking on the first night with the girls. “I have three kids. Did I make the right decision?” he asked himself. But he knew he had.

Monolito’s choice to forgo having children resulted from a hard childhood of witnessing his mother manage as a single parent to six children.  Conversely, this experience was what convinced him that he could take care of the girls and give them a great life as a family. “I actually heard her in the back of my mind saying ‘Get those kids. It’s just going to be hard, but I know you can do it,’” he said.

Having taken on this monumental responsibility, Monolito had a lot to figure out. His first decision was to move back to his hometown of St. Louis to be closer to his siblings for support. Once settled in St. Louis, he connected with Guardian Angel Settlement Association, a United Way member agency. Armed with his own commitment to the girls, and with the help of Guardian Angel, Monolito started putting the pieces together for his new family.

 

Guardian Angel helped Monolito, whose expenses had quadrupled in just over a month with the adoption of his daughters, with food and other basic needs. “I’m not sure what I would do without Guardian Angel being there at that time. I had just moved back home to St. Louis and they helped me just when I needed them,” he says.

Though Monolito never thought he’d have the responsibility of children, he can’t even remember his former life without the girls. “It’s been almost five years and now they’re a part of me. It’s like they’re just my girls now,” he says. In his new life, he has no regrets: “I almost can’t even recognize who I was or what I did because, now, it’s all about them.”

Discover how United Way is working to keep families like Monolito’s together by providing the basics like food, clothing and shelter.

Watch Monolito’s story:

About Guardian Angel Settlement Association

Established in 1859 by the Daughters of Charity as an orphanage for young immigrant girls, GASA has evolved into a community-based agency serving children, teens, families and seniors. Guardian Angel’s services are grouped into three program areas: (a) emergency assistance, (b) self-sufficiency programs and (c) early childhood development. Guardian Angel is committed to providing temporary relief in times of need, as well as pathways to greater independence.