In the fall of 2014, Jiyoung Stecher walked into the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers in Brandon. It was her first pregnancy and she was excited to attend the prenatal class provided by Champions for Children’s ABC Program. While attending she was able to learn about all the programs the Center had to offer and looked forward to bringing her son!
In 2016, she returned with her son, William, to register for the child development classes offered by Champions for Children’s Baby Bungalow Program. She participated in Growing Together with the instructor Michelle.
Growing Together provided her with a learning experience that she desperately desired. Sharing her fears, she explained, “As first time parents, you don’t know how to help your son learn… you don’t have any ideas of how to help him learn better.”
“The child development class gave me examples and ideas of what to do, how and what to play with him. We both used the songs to help him clean his room. We use sign language, and even use the shakers. We learned how to play with our baby so he can learn! He learned body parts, and now he points to his nose when we ask him!”
She had tried daycare for William but it did not help him, so she had to take him out. During that time, she continued participating in Growing Together as well as other Center activities such as free play and arts & crafts.
Recently, her husband became deployed and she found herself in need of time, so she decided to try daycare again. The Center experience has truly helped him adapt to his new learning environment! She was surprised to see how well he is doing now after having participated in the Center.
In a message to parents, she says, “You have to experience this Center. Either first time parents or not, the Centers help parents learn as they play!”
Asking for Help Made Easy
In 2014, Sheila Fontaine was searching for lactation support for her infant son, Emmett. She spoke with La Leche League, which recommended that she come in to speak with the lactation consultants at Baby Café held at the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers in Brandon. She brought in Emmett and was able to receive the assistance that she needed.
As time passed, Sheila became increasingly concerned about Emmett’s overall development. She felt that he was showing severe stranger anxiety, he was nonverbal, and at 18 months old he still was not walking. She began to worry and remembered that the Center offered child development classes, provided by Baby Bungalow. She decided to attend a Baby & Me class in late January of 2016.
While at the Center, Sheila shared with staff how concerned she was about Emmett. Furthermore, she was not sure what she could do to get help since she had lost her job in October and as a result, lost her health insurance. Center staff told her about the Mobile Medical Clinic provided by St. Joseph’s Children’s Advocacy Center.
The staff explained that Emmett would receive his well visit, immunizations, as well as hearing and vision screening. Equally important, she could speak with Luis Diaz, a child development specialist, who would conduct a development screening with her and Emmett. In addition, a health care navigator, Lourdes, would be available to help her with applying for health insurance.
In February, she brought Emmett to the Mobile Medical Clinic. Within a week after seeing Luis, Early Steps, an early childhood intervention program, called her for an appointment to evaluate Emmett. She excitedly reports that they have already seen him. Sheila is in disbelief that everything happened in less than a month!
Sheila says, “Every time I come here, I leave here crying tears of joy! The staff guided me through the path that I needed to follow. I can’t thank you enough! I didn’t know where to start – I had so many negative thoughts that no one would help me, that we would not qualify for any assistance! The less I could talk, the more you guys guided me! For some people, it is hard to ask for help. I am one of those people. But you guys make it WAY easy!”
Business Owner Shares Her Story
Clarissa Carruthers, a Healthy Families Hillsborough (HFH) graduate and former HFH Family Support Worker, took on a new endeavor.
A couple of years ago, Carruthers opened Oopsie Daisy Upscale Boutique. The boutique serves as a training hub for her nonprofit organization, Abilities of America. Oopsie Daisy provides training to employ disabled citizens by offering hands-on retail skills and business counseling for workers with disabilities that desire entrepreneurial opportunities of their own. Carruthers said Oopsie Daisy allows her to make a living, help disabled workers and stimulate the local job market.
The boutique sells new and consigned maternity, infant, and small children’s clothing, furniture, and accessories. In addition, the store has an area in the back where they can host free monthly events, including sign language classes for moms and babies.
Carruthers’ nonprofit organization, Abilities of America, provides disability advocacy and consultation. Carruthers says that there are many competitors who assist potential employees, but no one who advocates to companies on behalf of these valuable and skilled employees. Abilities of America has applied for federal stimulus money to cover program costs and Carruthers hopes to encourage employers by creating incentives.
What Healthy Families Has Meant to Me:
I'm honored to say that this program has been such a positive part of my and my kid's lives. It's bittersweet reaching the end. I've learned so much! How to manage time, creating stability for my children, getting involved with community functions. It's been a blessing having Lourdes there every step of my kid's growing process, having all the answers to all my questions, and solutions to my problems. Lourdes has been more than professional, she's been a great friend and part of our growing lives.
Yessenia, mother of twins Isaiah & Jeremiah
I love what they do for families to help them understand their baby and how to have a better bond with your kids. I love all the learning I have done with Ms. Yomika. She's like a mom to me. If I had to do it all again I would. Ms. Yomika met me when I was down and out in my life but she never gave up on me. I thank her for being with me.
Shatia, mother of Jovanny
They have taught me so much and showed me a lot of responsibilities that parents will experience. Since I am a first time parent, it really helped me out during stressful and confusing moments. I'm very happy for the service I received. Thank you so much Healthy Families!
Javacia, mother of Javiel
Healthy Families has been wonderful to my family and has been an important part of my kid's growth and development. I am grateful for the program.
Jason, father of Aahyah
This program came at the perfect time for me. During my hospital stay for the birth of Justin, I was going through a lot of emotional issues where I felt alone. I felt I had no one to talk to who would be neutral and just listen. Leonarda has been great. She's listened and offered her assistance to me in anyway she could. She's guided me into the right direction and helped me get my son into the Head Start Program and encouraged me to go back to school and stick with it, which I've been doing. Thanks for everything!
Jennifer, mother of Justin
Taught me so much about raising my kids and gave me a companion whenever I needed someone to talk to. My worker was always available when I had tough times and I was able to lean on Healthy Families to help me when I was having problems. I received the proper assistance and everything was kept confidential. Thanks for this great program and worker, Ms. Yomika rocks!
Chantlet, mother of Mario
Healthy Families has meant a lot to me. There have been many times when I was lost without a clue of where to get help or support for my child's needs. My Healthy Families worker, Ms. Yomeka has been by my side at every turn to guide me on what to do to solve my problems. And for that I would like to thank her.
Octavia, mother of Arkia
It helped me learn how to take care of Azieh, he has Autism, and they helped with a lot of issues. Thank you for everything that you did and thanks for Anita, we love her, she is an angel and we will miss her very much.
Love and God Bless,
Ashley, mother of Azieh
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