Family Alliance for Change celebration

September 13th, 2017
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein speaks at the Family Alliance for Change event

Family Alliance for Change (FAFC) held a celebratory and fundraising breakfast event on September 12, featuring a keynote address by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

FAFC is a parent-led, nonprofit organization that supports families in Wayne County with children experiencing mental health challenges. It is a partnership with Southwest Solutions and the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

The event was sponsored by:

  • Casey Family Programs (Gold Sponsor)
  • Development Centers (Silver Sponsor)
  • The Children’s Center of Wayne County (Silver Sponsor)
  • The Guidance Center (Silver Sponsor)
  • Beaumont Health (Bronze Sponsor)
  • Northeast Guidance Center (Bronze Sponsor)
  • Southwest Solutions (Bronze Sponsor)

After Deborah Martinez, FAFC Parent Involvement Manager, spoke at the event, Jacqueline Colon spoke about how FAFC has helped her family. Here is the text of Jacqueline’s speech:

Jacqueline Colon speaks at the Family Alliance for Change event

Buenos días. Good Morning.

Debbie has been my Parent Support Partner for the last two years. I’m so grateful for all she has done to help our family.

My husband and I are from Puerto Rico. We have two children. Our son Marco is 16. Our daughter Carolina is 14. Marco was born with autism. Carolina showed emotional and social problems when she was small. The problems grew worse as she grew bigger.

Carolina was not diagnosed with a mental illness in Puerto Rico. The mental health system there is not nearly as good as it is here. So I didn’t know what was wrong with my daughter. I felt worried, confused and frustrated. So many times I thought: O my God, what am I going to do to help her?

My husband and I decided that we needed to come to the United States to get better care for our children. My husband has relatives in Detroit. So we came here two and a half years ago.

Carolina had an IP from the Puerto Rico school system. The IP only talked about speech and language problems. When Carolina started school in Detroit, she was evaluated to determine her special needs and accommodations. A social worker with the District recommended that I take Carolina to Southwest Solutions for mental health counseling.

The therapists at Southwest Solutions diagnosed Carolina with bipolar disorder, depression, and unspecified anxiety disorder. It was difficult to learn that my daughter has serious mental illness. But it was also a relief to learn this. Now we know what is wrong and how to treat it.

However, I still had so much more to learn about helping Carolina, especially at school. How special education works here was completely new to me. I needed help to navigate the system and make sure that Carolina’s needs were met.

That’s when I was connected with Debbie and Family Alliance for Change. And what a difference Debbie has made in our lives. I am a person of strong faith. And I must say: Debbie is a blessing and a godsend.

Debbie guided me through the IP and special education system in Detroit Public Schools. She showed me how to get additional help for Carolina – and for my son, too. She gave me confidence that I could be a good advocate for my children.

Debbie helped me with my parenting skills so I could understand Carolina better and be more patient and calm. Debbie also helped me with my English.

Carolina is doing much better now, at school and in general. Her ability to interact with others has improved. Of course, it’s a process. And she’s a teenager now, which brings a new set of challenges. But I feel that both she and I are better able to handle these challenges going forward.

Carolina is a freshman at Western International High School. She’s being mainstreamed, and it’s an adjustment for her. She’s not sure she likes it, but I’ve told her to give it time. I think it will be good for her in the long run.

Marco is a junior at Western. He had been a failing student before. But his grades have come up. He wants to get his certificate of completion so he can go to a trade school and go to work.

It was hard for us to leave our lives in Puerto Rico and come here. But I am happy that we did so. We have met so many good people here who truly care about our family. They have made the extra effort to help us in whatever ways they can.

Because of all these kind people, even with all the problems our family has had to overcome, we still feel blessed. We thank our counselors at Southwest Solutions. We thank you, Debbie. And we thank you Family Alliance for Change.

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