The last few months have left Matt Donnelly and Jeff St. Germain unsettled and worried about the future, especially as the inauguration looms.
Warwick residents and small business owners, Donnelly and St. Germain have been partners for 34 years. For the last nine, they’ve been a foster care family. They are currently raising two foster children, and their son Caleb was adopted out of the system.
“My son is black, our two foster children are Mexican,” Donnelly said. There was “vitriol, anger and overt racism during this election towards religion, towards people of color, towards ethnicity.” He feels his son will be at a disadvantage.
“We've elected this guy that has no internal sensors, someone who is brash, racist, misogynistic as he is, we have done a complete 180-degree turnaround, or worse” said Donnelly. “We had such a good run with President Obama.”
He is also worried about cuts to the supports they receive as foster parents. “Our foster children are already delayed. They receive a lot of special programming,” support that Donnelly thinks might be cut drastically under the Trump administration, a platform that undoes “all that's been done over the past eight years, from healthcare to his social platforms,” said Donnelly.
Changes in Medicaid will directly affect Donnelly and St. Germain's children, and as small business owners, they worry their own insurance could be affected as well.
Matt (left) and Jeff with Caleb, photo credit: Read McKendree
“Our children's health insurance will be affected, the support services that DHS can give us for support programs will be affected, even the stipend for foster care could be affected,” he said. “Being self-employed, we stand to lose our health insurance. It's ridiculously expensive already, and it's just the two of us because the kids are covered by the state, and it's more than our mortgage.”
“We have a lot of friends who fall into the same categories we do,” he said. “Some of them are in a same-sex marriage, they have adopted children or they are in an interracial marriage and have natural children.”
He thinks if marriage equality laws are returned to being on a state-by-state basis, there will be “only so many places we could go,” Donnelly said. “They are talking in some states about dissolving same-sex marriages and removing the children from their parents. This is like going back to the 1890s.”
In addition to owning Little Falls Café in Pawtuxet Village, Donnelly, a registered nurse, owns Heart in Hand Massage Therapy, and St. Germain is a realtor. Saying that business was steady the last eight years, Donnelly notes, “Massage therapy is not a necessity,” and with “the economic plan that he's putting in place, people will have less disposable income, less money to spend. With the loss of the Affordable Care Act, 30 million people will lose health insurance. Most of my clients are self-pay, and when people lose disposable income, the first things that go are going out to eat and taking care of themselves." On the day after the election, Donnelly said the tone at the café was downbeat. “To see the number of people who came in that day after who were flabbergasted, who were in disbelief, there was a general sense of mourning, of immobility, people who could not believe this was actually happening.” He’s hoping people will rally, “This is where we are at. There should be more of an outcry.”
This article was originally published in the Warwick Beacon, by Jen Cowart.