Our Children and Families

Eudora’s Story

Eudora is a participant of The Child Center of NY’s Cash+Community Works (C+C), a groundbreaking neighborhood-based initiative that invests in under-resourced families, trusts them with power, and connects them with peers so they all can rise together. C+C works on the premise that families are the experts on what they need to achieve their goals, and our job is to act as investors, advocates, and partners.

At The Child Center’s 70th anniversary gala, Eudora spoke powerfully about her experience as a promising entrepreneur. Watch the above clip to see how she was able to start a marketable business through C+C—and pay it forward.

Hilaria’s Story

Like most parents, Hilaria would do anything for her child. She wanted her son, now 3, to be able to go as far as his abilities could take him—but, being in a new country, not speaking the language, she didn’t know how or where to start. Navigating the education system was daunting, and she didn’t understand what she was expected to do.

Thankfully, friends and family referred her to The Child Center of NY’s Early Head Start Corona program. Here, she is getting the bright start she wanted for her son. Like all Child Center families, she’s also getting so much more, including support for herself so she can pursue her own goals—which, in turn, increases her ability to raise her son so he can thrive.

Here is Hilaria’s story in her own words, in her native language.

English version

“Desde que nació mi hijo, quise lo mejor para él. Pero es difícil darle a su hijo lo que necesita cuando no se sabe lo que es. Esta fue la situación en la que me encontré cuando emigré a este pais. Nuestra vida familiar no era la mejor, y yo no sabía nada sobre el sistema educativo. Estoy muy contenta de haber encontrado The Child Center. La gente de allí me ayudó con todas estas cosas.

The Child Center ha sido especialmente útil para mí en mi papel como padre. Gracias a los servicios de visitas domiciliarias, he aprendido a ser una madre cariñosa.

“I encouraged Hilaria to get mental health services. At first, she didn’t know what that was. I explained to her the process and benefits. She was comfortable with me because she and her son were in ParentChild+, where I was their home visitor. They received toys and books every week. The age-appropriate activities and the guidance I offered helped her interact better with her son and build a relationship with him. These activities are preparing him for 3K. Hilaria is always engaged as a parent, no matter the challenges.”
—Judith Leon
Home Visitor

Ahora entiendo la importancia de compartir más tiempo con mi hijo y hacer actividades juntos. Este programa le ha enseñado a mi hijo los números del 1 al 10, los colores y las letras. Mi hijo listo para comenzar el programa 3-K [programa preescolar para niños de 3 años], y me siento orgullosa de saber que ya sabe algunas de las cosas que aprenderá en la escuela. Todos los servicios que este programa le ha brindado a mi hijo han sido útiles para su educación futura.
Espero aprender más sobre su educación. Como padre, tengo algunas metas para él, como ponerlo en una escuela de música y programas deportivos. También tengo metas para mí. Ahora que mi hijo asiste a la escuela, tendré más tiempo para lograrlos. Recientemente he logrado mi objetivo de encontrar empleo. Estoy vendiendo comida preparada por mi. En el futuro, me gustaría tomar clases de GED y ESL.

Estoy muy contenta de que la gente me haya referido al Centro Infantil. Si alguien acude a mí con preguntas sobre la educación de su hijo, al igual que yo acudí a las personas en mi vida en busca de consejo y orientación, les diria que no lo piensen dos veces ya que en este programa sus hijos comenzarán a aprender a una edad temprana y estarán listos para la escuela cuando cumplan tres años. Además, nosotros, como padres, aprenderemos sobre las áreas de desarrollo, cómo establecer metas y cómo crear rutinas; esto se enseña en un grupo llamado Grupo de Socialización que ofrece este programa.

“Most families who experience what this family experienced are hesitant to open up. This family was a bit difficult to connect with, and to ensure they understood the dynamics and purpose of therapy. Still, finally, we were able to offer therapy for the mom and child. During the process, I offered the mom emotional support, as well as connections like Safe Horizon for support groups and services like SNAP benefits [food stamps]. I reminded her of appointments and checked in with her about changes so I could collaborate with her for a solution.”
–Maria Leal, Parent Peer Advocate, 0-3 Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative

Recomiendo este programa a las familias que tienen niños menores de tres años porque los servicios que brindan son únicos en la comunidad. Los programas de calidad para la primera infancia para niños menores de 3 años son difíciles de encontrar en mi área. Agradezco que las personas que trabajan en Early Head Start dThe Child Center entienden y hablen mi idioma. Y aunque no sabía esto cuando inscribí a mi hijo, The Child Center ofrece muchos más servicios de los que usted busca, y eso es realmente único y útil más allá de toda medida.”

The Child Center of NY: One-Stop Shop

At The Child Center, we understand that serving the whole child, family, and community is integral to serving children. But when you live below the poverty line, seemingly small things, like taking time off from work and traveling to multiple sites for services in a language you don’t understand, are huge barriers to care. That’s why we put our understanding into practice by serving multiple needs under one roof, right in the neighborhoods where our clients live.

Here’s how it worked for Hilaria. Click on the blue links for quotes from the team members who assisted Hilaria and orange links for program information.

Eli’s Story

Eli, a client of the Cohen Family Wellness Center Youth Intensive Outpatient Program, with his cousin's dog, Leon.

Animals are just one of the things Eli loves in his life. Here he is with his cousin’s dog, Leon. “He’s just a pup (though he is huge),” Eli says. “I love him sooooo much.”

Hello! My name is Elijah, but people mostly know me as Eli.

Three years ago, in mid-December, I decided to try and take my own life. I was about 12 years old, not knowing anything but the harsh feelings I was feeling. Before I was hospitalized, I never had any encounters with therapists, psychologists, etc. I didn’t believe anyone would ever be able to help me; I truly believed life was not meant for me. Meeting countless licensed strangers, one after another, didn’t feel right for me, and every single one of them proved and heightened my belief. I have a hard time opening up, even now.

The next step was supposed to be the first step, but since I was in such a severe situation, therapy only started taking its first step after I found the right therapist. It doesn’t mean all of the other people weren’t good at their job, it just meant they weren’t right for me and the person I am. After a few trials and errors, I finally found someone I still believe is right and suited for me.

I never had the decision to even think of what I wanted to do with myself—if I even wanted to get better. After just a few sessions with my new therapist, I finally realized how deep in the hole I really was, how horrible the feelings I was feeling really were—and that I did want to get better. I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling anymore. I was so accustomed to my own thoughts because I’d been living with them day by day. I thought I knew what life really was. Looking back, I was just a very afraid and vulnerable kid, and I still am, but I want to share my vulnerability today.

Accepting is the first step to growth. I accepted where I was at that point, and I was trying my best, with the help of my loved ones, to become a better version of myself. Maybe even the best. I didn’t even notice my change until my therapist pointed out how I was a lot more interactive in the conversations I had with her, much more in the moment and engaged. I was interested in others and learning to be interested in myself. Being here, in this world, didn’t seem as bad as I first thought it to be. It wasn’t anything big, I didn’t feel like I won the lottery, but it felt nice to walk to the park with my little sister, it felt nice to open doors for others as we smiled at each other, and it felt nice to share meals with my family, knowing how much work my mother put into each one. I started noticing the smallest things, which made living life feel nice. I realized my big feelings weren’t as big as I thought and started having faith in my future, not just for the long run, but for tomorrow. Life moved on. I started to do the same.

Therapy taught me a lot of things, especially the way I interact with myself and my mind. If I ever have the slightest thought of something negative regarding myself, my immediate reaction now is to ask myself why. Therapy also made me realize how others in my life were also struggling, maybe not as severely, but they were still struggling. Before I would barely speak to my parents; now I try to stay near them as much as possible … not always talking but having our presence within a close distance was enough. I have learned many ways to calm myself down during an episode or whenever I am having a rough time. It has also taught me patience for myself, and to not judge myself, like how I wouldn’t for others … admiring the simpler things and living in the present.

More importantly, I have learned that healing has no destination. For the short term, I would like to pass all of my classes and maybe even make a few close friends this school year. Right now, my only goal long term is to get into a good university and be able to provide for myself and my family. I feel more hopeful for my future.

Thank you, Diana, for letting me experience life as it is.

Response from Eli’s therapist, Diana Michelena, Program Coordinator, Youth Intensive Outpatient Program (Youth IOP), Cohen Family Wellness Center:

I’m so glad Eli decided to write his story—to inspire others, and so that he can see for himself his incredible gifts, strengths, and potential.

Eli is a 15-year-old transgender boy who initially presented with severe depression symptoms. He was reporting severe low mood, lack of motivation, urge to self-harm, multiple hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. Additionally, he struggled in school, refusing to attend for months. It is heartbreaking to see a young person in such distress, with them not knowing how special and unique they are. They don’t know it can be better, and I am so grateful it is my job to get them there.

Eli attended our Youth IOP, participating in multiple individual sessions a week. His mother also attended sessions, and we worked together to determine ways she could best support Eli. Family involvement makes such a difference, and the vast majority of families want to do right by their children and will do so, given the tools and chance.

The family also collaborated to support Eli’s academic concerns. We connected them to a school that specializes in students with emotional needs. Throughout the program, Eli made outstanding progress, and today he is a thriving graduate of the school and returned to public school this year. He has been able to connect to staff and students, reported finding joy in little things again, and has been making great effort to engage in the community around him. He reports that he hasn’t had suicidal thoughts in months. Most remarkably, Eli has just ended his Summer Youth Employment Program, which I know he is rightly proud of. I have no doubt that Eli will continue to make himself proud. He has come so far, after facing so many challenges. He is full of a promise he is now poised to realize, and I can’t wait to watch him soar.

Editor’s Note: If you are actively suicidal, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911. For anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available.

Danny’s Story

Danny is a talented, hardworking young man who mentors youth in his community and enjoys practicing martial arts. One day while walking home from school, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was involved in a tragic incident. As a result, Danny got caught up in the justice system through no fault of his own. Part of his court mandate was going to therapy, which he got at our Residential Treatment Facility and Cohen Family Wellness Center. Now he pays it forward by serving as an advocate for himself and other young people. Danny was a featured speaker at The Child Center of NY’s 70th anniversary gala. Below are his prepared remarks. You also can watch the video above to hear him tell his story at the gala.

Hello, everyone. Tonight, I am here as an advocate. The Child Center invests in young people and their families, and they supported me when I needed it. The Child Center provided me with a great outlet. I did therapy for two years with a counselor who really helped me. I have experienced several challenges and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support. I will share my story to show you that when you invest in young people, you help them live healthy, fulfilling lives. Young people can be positive influences on other young people and be change agents in their communities. I am living proof of that. I have a much longer story to tell, but I will make it brief for you.  

 I have a brother who struggles with mental disorder and it made my home life very difficult. He’s been in psychiatric facilities since he was little, and he missed out on his childhood. He is impulsive and has violent tendencies, so I was always in survival mode. I pressured myself to protect my baby brother from our older brother. I worried about his safety. My mother is a single mother, and I did everything for my baby brother while she was at work. 

 The situation at home made me depressed and I was having trouble in school. I used to be a good student, but I was skipping classes and it was really out of character. Things were really rocky.  

 When I was sixteen years old, there was an incident where I was stabbed while walking home and it was a case of mistaken identity. I study martial arts and I defended myself. Unfortunately, the other person ended up partially paralyzed. And because both of our fingerprints were on the knife, we were both charged with attempted murder. This incident occurred at the height of the pandemic. And because of COVID regulations, my case moved slowly, the court date was delayed, and I was held in a detention center for over 8 months.  

 My family usually doesn’t show their emotions. But the day I was sentenced, I saw my family express their emotions for the first time and cry. I felt horrible.  

 Luckily, the house across the street had surveillance cameras and video was able to show everything that happened. My innocence was proven. The court expunged the case.  

 But the judge determined that because of the injuries inflicted on the other person were so severe, I used excessive force. She recommended that as part of my probation, I go to the Child Center’s Residential Treatment Facility, which also houses justice-involved youth. Part of the court mandate was that I go to therapy.  

 Therapy was a lifeline for me. After that whole experience, I have made big changes in my life. I made an effort to stay away from negative influences. I learned who I could trust and lost a lot of friends in the process. I moved out of the city and dedicated myself to becoming better. It’s gotten better. Through therapy, I’ve explored parts of myself I didn’t even know I had. I used to live in the past and I lost myself. I’ve learned to think ahead now.  

 I’m studying to get my real estate license and am an assistant manager at a retail store located near a middle school. The kids I see every day who come into my store, I can relate to them, I give them advice. Mentoring comes naturally to me. I was also a martial arts instructor. I used to visit schools and teach kids self-defense. I enjoyed this very much and plan to continue mentoring kids in the future. 

 I also visit my little brother and take him out, do fun things together because he should enjoy a normal childhood. My therapist taught me that it’s not about the time, it’s about the quality of the time you spend with someone. My little brother is six years old now, and he still calls me “Dad’ to this day because he sees me as a Dad. I’ve been a consistent – and the only – father figure in his life.  

 The Child Center showed me how to cope, distract myself from negative thoughts and identify what is going on. I can pursue a more normal life now. My coping skills, being able to identify problems, have helped me. Through my mental health counseling, I look at everything now with a different lens. When I look at friends, I ask, what baggage do I carry, what baggage do they carry? How can we help each other?  

 All the things I’ve learned at The Child Center enable me to pursue my dreams. I can work on my goals, be there for my family and have the tools to overcome challenges.  

 Like I said in the beginning, I am here as an advocate to tell my story and shed light on what’s happening with our youth. I am here as a testament. Our work here as a community is imperative to youth, especially those who’ve been given a bad hand, through no fault of their own. This is the way to lift each other up and build a brighter future, together. Thank you. 

Jonathan’s Story

Below is a speech that Jonathan delivered during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Cohen Family Wellness Center. You can listen to additional thoughts that Jonathan shared during an interview with amNY, above. Credit: amNY, Kyle Sweeting, and Jason Schwartz.

Hello everyone, my name is Jonathan, and I have been involved with The Child Center for about three years.

To begin my journey, I started with Zoom calls due to the pandemic and restrictions placed by COVID-19. The resources provided by The Child Center helped with resolving many of the issues I was suffering from and helped me overcome major challenges that were tied to my anxiety.

It took me a while to warm up to my therapist due to the unusual circumstances, but when I became comfortable, that’s when my journey decided to pick up speed.

When I went to the clinic for the first time, I was tense and overwhelmed. Due to the country opening up and returning from a remote environment to an in-person environment, I was on edge and all over the place. I was worried that I would lose all the progress I had made during the Zoom sessions. But my therapist helped me ease my worries and helped me with my transition to this new life.

At the time, I was scared of everything happening around me, afraid of change, and intimidated by the smallest challenges that life presented. Although these problems never seem to cease, the ways to manage these stressors were some skills that I would eventually pick up in my therapy sessions.

Jonathan with Amazin' Mets representatives at the Cohen Family Wellness Center in Woodside, Queens

Jonathan (second from left) at the grand opening of the Cohen Family Wellness Center. Learn more: childcenterny.org/photo-of-the-month-cohen-family-wellness-center/

The [Cohen] Family Wellness Center created the resources necessary for my improvement. I felt like I had no cure, and although it seemed like that at the time, I would later be proven wrong.

I learned that I was not the only person to have these uncomfortable symptoms. I was not the only person to live this type of way. I was not alone in this struggle.

This sense of belonging would bring me great comfort, allowing optimism back into my life once again. This place helped me grow, helped me change into someone that I am proud to be.

I would have never imagined the progress I would have made; it still amazes me today.

I would like to happily share that due to the progress I made at this place, I was able to accomplish some achievements that I could have never possibly imagined. This would include my role as valedictorian for my class of 2023, and being a Macaulay Scholar attending Queens College in the fall, majoring in psychology to pursue a passion of being a therapist or clinical psychologist. This passion was inspired by my time at The Child Center.

To end things off, I would like to thank my therapist, Abraham, and my psychiatrist, Dr. Yang, along with my parents and siblings who supported me through this journey. I do not know what type of person I would be without them.

Thank you.

Christopher’s Story

Christopher, a graduate of Flushing Young Adult Borough Center (YABC)

During COVID, I worked construction during the day and did my schoolwork online in the nights.

When it was time to go back to regular [in-person] school, I didn’t want to go back. I was a senior, but I didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time. I wanted to drop out. But my guidance counselor, Mr. Baglio, told me, hey, would you like to join this program that helps you get your credits? He explained to me about Flushing YABC [Young Adult Borough Center at Flushing High School], which is a school for students like me.

At first, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I was already working and didn’t want to do school anymore. But Mr. Baglio convinced me. He said they [the YABC staff] would support me and work with my schedule. I took the offer and went to YABC.

I’d get up at 5 a.m., go to my construction job, and then go to YABC right after at 3 p.m. It was killing me because I also had a night shift job. Eventually I got a job at a bagel shop—went in to work at 5 [a.m.], out by 2 [p.m.], went to school from 3-8:30. But I was struggling to pay my bills. I had a lot of difficulty around that time. I got kicked out of my house. In my culture, parents are often quick to judge and not really listen. I was going to give up on school. I was done.

The only thing that stopped me was Ms. Peña. Ms. Peña was my primary contact at YABC. Every single time I thought about dropping out, she’d remind me I was almost done. She’d say, Chris, you got this, don’t give up; you are going to finish high school. She was always there to listen and help me with solutions. When I told her about my job situation, she helped me find a job at FHS [Flushing High School] that fit into my schedule. It was a paid internship through the Learning to Work program. I worked with Mr. Max in the IT department of FHS doing inventory. He helped me develop business wise. I didn’t know how to communicate, how to speak to someone in an office. Now I’ve worked with a lot of staff at FHS. Teachers know me very well. I got a lot of respect from them, and they told me that they would help me with getting a job if I ever needed it.

Ms. Peña also helped me figure out what I wanted to do after high school. She had people come in to talk to us about different jobs, what they do day to day. There were people who had jobs in business, real estate … and a police officer. Becoming a police officer kind of hit me as something I want to do. He said that it’s always good just to help the community. A lot of Hispanic people don’t understand English very well, they need help sometimes, and it’s good to help the community. That’s something that interested me. He gave me ideas to organize myself a little better, talked about college. I took his advice. I decided to go to Queensborough Community College to study criminal justice. I’m starting my first semester now. I’m doing that!

I am where I am because of Ms. Peña. I cried to her when I graduated. I couldn’t believe I really did it!

I also want to thank Mr. Max. When I started in the technology room with Mr. Max, I was used to carpentry, not computers. I told him, I’m slow, you’re going to get frustrated with me. But he taught me everything. I took inventory on 500 computers! He taught me new things every day. It feels good to learn! I always thought, I’ll stick to construction, but you know what? It’s always good to learn.

To read more about Flushing YABC, see this Q&A with Program Director Jaimee Diehl and this spotlight on YABC’s career fair.

Update, October 2023: Christopher is now a first-year student at Queensborough Community College, and he sent us this update:

“My first semester of college was fun, but, at the same time, very stressful trying to fit in with a lot of new people. Most of my professors were nice and great at teaching. I just didn’t pass algebra and will have to retake it next semester. It’s fine. .. I think I learned [better] this semester! I got good grades aside from that. My second semester was much better. I met a lot of people, thanks to the soccer team.

I was able to represent the Tigers (Queensborough community college men’s soccer team) with number 23 this year, becoming QCC’s center back. Being part of this team really showed me a lot of things, from celebrating wins to also knowing how to lose as a team. There are many things that still must get fixed within the team, but we can work on that next semester. Honestly speaking, college can be fun when you make it fun, but it can also be a pain when you’re not doing what must be done. There’s a lot of things that need to be learned and worked on, one step at a time. My goal is finishing school with a criminology degree and to be able to join the NYPD. There’s still many steps to get there, but as long as it’s rolling towards that direction, I’m fine. Good things take a long time to make.”

Daniela’s Story

Daniela, a school-based mental health client at The Child Center of NY, with her therapist, Sarah Rashid 
Listen to the audio of the Q&A between Daniela and her therapist, Sarah Rashid, LMSW

Daniela is an 11th-grade student who goes to therapy at a Child Center wellness center in her school during lunchtime.

As a young child, Daniela experienced severe trauma. Returning to in-person school after remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was a struggle because her extreme anxiety and ongoing hypervigilance—due to PTSD—prevented her from focusing in class. Thankfully, since mental health education for the entire school community—including teachers—is a core part of The Child Center’s school-based mental health work, one of Daniela’s teachers noticed she seemed overwhelmed and brought Daniela to our on-site wellness center.

Please tap on the photo above to hear Daniela speak in her own words about her experience in therapy at her school’s wellness center.

Keim’s Story

Keim and his dance team at basie beacon m.s. 72

Keim and his fellow B2 Dancerettes performed in the M.S. 72 Basie Beacon program’s Black History Showcase. Back row from left to right: Crystal, Jaylah, Jalayah, Brianna, Leah, and Savannah. Front row: Keim and Nevaeh

My name is Keim, and I’m 14 years old. I started M.S. 72 in September 2019 when I was in sixth grade. I joined The Child Center of NY Beacon afterschool program as well.

I can admit that I was not the best student in school or afterschool, and I can admit that I made a lot of bad decisions. I used to feel that fighting people was cool because it made me fit in, and people accepted me. I would bully people, instigate, and provoke others. I maintained failing grades, but I didn’t care.

Then in 2021, I developed a love for dance with The Child Center of NY afterschool dance program. All the things I didn’t care about suddenly meant the world to me. It was during this time that I realized that I was now in the eighth grade and I needed to care more about myself and my future. Several people helped me reach this decision. All of a sudden, I realized how so many people in my life who were giving me guidance were so right about everything. My sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Cannon, would always tell me how I was worth more than fighting someone every day. My dance instructor in afterschool, Daquan Harris, really opened my eyes more than anyone.

I still struggle with my school work and attendance; my grades were still failing from the beginning of this school year. My dance instructor learned about this problem and worked with me to resolve the issues. For the first time in the history of my middle school experience, I passed all of my classes on my last report card. Funny but true, if I didn’t pass, my dance instructor told me that I would not be able to be on the dance team. Not being on the team was not an option because I love to dance. It’s the only way I feel that I can express myself.

Silvia’s Story

Silvia and daughter, ParentChild+

I grew up in Queens with very strict parents. They are immigrants from Ecuador and are very “old school.” They had high expectations for me and my two sisters. When I got pregnant at 19, they were devastated. It was very hard for me because I was only in my second year in college, and on top of that, I had my family judging me.

It was the middle of my spring semester, and I ended up on academic probation with a 1.5 GPA. I had been studying to become a social worker, but my low GPA rendered me ineligible for my program. It wasn’t long before I just dropped out.

When my daughter was born, I loved her so much, but I didn’t have the motivation to do much—with her or with myself. I didn’t read to her. I didn’t really play with her. And I didn’t develop a bond with her. For myself, now that I was out of college and had lost eligibility for my program, I didn’t know what direction to take.

My wake-up call came when my daughter was close to two years old. The doctor evaluated her at a well visit and told me what I already knew in my heart: My daughter had a speech delay. She was not saying any words—she was just pointing—and she wasn’t hearing when I called her name. My heart sank as I wondered: What am I doing as a mother for her development?

At that moment, I knew I had to do everything for her that I possibly could. I regretted not doing that sooner, but all I could do was move forward. I enrolled her in Early Intervention services for her speech. I started reading to her. I tried to engage more. But I reached a point I knew I had to do more. I just didn’t know how.

I looked for help on the Internet and came across The Child Center of NY. I contacted the Woodside Early Head Start program to see if I could enroll my daughter. They were full, but they gave me the number for The Child Center’s Early Head Start program in Astoria, which had spots available. I enrolled her there and found out we also were eligible for the ParentChild+ program, which includes free books and toys and guidance on using them. My daughter was receiving speech therapy at the time, too, and with all this help, I saw her progress right before my eyes.

ParentChild+ has this whole curriculum that makes you confident you’re doing everything possible for your child. We enrolled in March 2020, right when COVID hit, so our visits with our home visitor were virtual. At first I thought, “No baby wants to be just there on a screen,” but it was very helpful. The program includes a parent handbook to check off milestones for every age. I could see that some I could check off and some were not fully checked and I could work on those.

The guidance I got about using the toys and books helped me a lot, especially as a first-time mom and pretty young. I didn’t know any better how to raise a child. It was very difficult. But our home visitor guided me through using the toys and books, explaining the significance of each one. One toy was magnetic blocks with different colors, and another was a shape sorter. I learned to talk to my daughter in ways that would support her development while she was playing, identifying the colors and shapes. She loved the books, too, especially Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, which exposed her to numbers and counting, and Are You My Mother? She loved learning about the different animals. She still likes those books a lot!

In the beginning, it was hard. My daughter wouldn’t respond; she’d make sounds, but no words. I would speak to her in both languages, English and Spanish, and I grew very concerned that she would have to be in special ed and continue to have problems.

Silvia and daughter at a partyIt took a whole year of services, but eventually, one day to another, she just started speaking, saying a couple words and clearly grasping lots of different things.

She’s 3 now. Her last day of speech therapy was just before her third birthday. She’s speaking well in both languages. She’s in a 3K class in preschool and gets along with the other kids and is doing well in all developmental areas. She won’t need special education.

If I hadn’t received these services, I don’t know where I would be. The Child Center helped me with the how.

Now I get to help other families in the same way.

Throughout my college journey, I was always interest in social services or education. When the position of family worker opened up at Early Head Start, Astoria—the program that my daughter and I were enrolled in—I decided to apply. I’d gotten along with everyone here as a parent—everyone is so sweet and friendly!—that I knew I would enjoy being part of the team. Besides my interest in the field of early childhood education, I felt that because I was in the program and struggled so much throughout my motherhood journey with these new things in my life, I could help others. I’m not the only one to go through these struggles. There are a lot of other first-time mothers having even more difficulty than me. That motivated me to where I’m working at now.

As a family worker, I help families who are having needs and connect them with resources, whether that’s cash assistance, physicals, dentals … anything a family might be struggling with. This is important to me, as I got help from the program in this way, too. My family worker helped me with food bags, diapers, wipes … a lot of different things when I needed them most.

I also work with families on goal setting and determining what steps they need to take to achieve their goals. And I work on recruiting, which isn’t hard since I can speak from experience!

As for my personal goals, I’m now back in college. I went from a 1.5 GPA to a 3.2. I pushed myself, did all assignments, studied for midterms and finals, and told myself I have to get at least 3.0—and I did it, thanks to a lot of support that I received.

I’m pursuing a degree in psychology and my goal is to earn my MSW.

In addition to my college classes, I’m taking the Family Development Credential (FDC) program to gain a deeper understanding of my new role.

Working hard with my daughter, I saw the progress at the end. Things didn’t start out the way I would have wanted them to—much like I didn’t intend for my college years to include a 1.5 GPA—but, with hard work and a lot of support, I learned that a rough path still can lead to the goal you were pursuing all along.

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