Wake mother seeking baby formula finds WIC office closed
Posted December 5, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Jillian Espinal said she was on the verge of tears Friday morning when she showed up for her appointment with Wake County Human Services workers to get formula for her 4-month-old son and found the offices closed.
Espinal, a 23-year-old single mother from Knightdale, said she had a 9:15 a.m. appointment with the WIC program, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC is funded by the federal government and operated by county social services offices, providing everything from health care referrals to nutrition counseling to vouchers for food and baby formula to low-income women who are pregnant or have young children.
Instead of meeting with a WIC staffer, however, Espinal found a note on the locked door, saying the office was closed until Monday because a new computer system was being installed.
"I know what it is to have a hungry tummy, but for a baby? A newborn? Have you heard a newborn cry when they're hungry?" she asked.
Her son, Kaidence, would finish all of the formula she has on hand by the end of Friday, she said.
Espinal said no one mentioned the closure during her last visit to the office, and no one at WIC called her to reschedule.
Sue Lynn Ledford, Wake County's public health director, said staffers tried to inform everyone about the shutdown Friday and Saturday. Notices were posted in English and Spanish throughout the Human Services building on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh, and she said staffers tried to call anybody who had an appointment.
"Sometimes people's addresses change, their phone numbers change," Ledford said. "But I know there has been quite a bit of effort to get that information out."
Regina Petteway, interim Human Services director, said she plans to look for ways to make information about any future WIC closures more accessible to people. She said the office doesn't have an emergency plan for such closures because it is usually open six days a week, so most mothers are able to have their needs met.
When Human Services officials learned of Espinal's plight, they gave her a voucher to buy formula and other food this weekend.
The WIC office is set to reopen at 2 p.m. Monday, but officials said lines could be longer than usual after the closure.
The new computer system is part of a program called Crossroads, which creates a digital database for client records. Officials say it should make for easier scheduling and quicker pick-up.