Gloria is a good and caring parent of three young children, and she worried about how to prepare her children for success in school and life, given the family’s limited resources and her own limited education. So she turned to Southwest Solutions’ early childhood program for help.
“This program gives you the tools so you can be a better parent,” Gloria says.
At their home in southwest Detroit, Gloria and her children work with Southwest Solutions’ Early Head Start Home Visitor, Sarah Dominguez, once a week for 90-minute sessions. The goal of the Early Head Start program is to improve the health and readiness-to-learn of children before they enter preschool and kindergarten. Sarah also provides emotional support and encouragement to parents.
“We provide parents support so they can work with their children throughout the week,” Sarah says. “Parents are the first teachers for their kids.”
Early Head Start services are available to pregnant women and children up to age 3. Gloria’s youngest children, Zoe, age two, and Abel, age four months, are both in the program. During her pregnancy with Abel, Sarah shared information about infant health that motivated Gloria to breastfeed her son. Although she tried to do it with her daughters, the challenges of breastfeeding caused her to give up. This time around, Gloria had more information about the benefits, felt compelled to try harder, and was successful.
Equipped with new knowledge, Gloria is parenting her son differently. She’s more attentive to Abel’s development and milestones than she was with the girls. For example, Gloria remembers putting mittens on her oldest daughter Madison’s hands at all times when she was a baby to protect her from scratching herself. Now she considers things differently and leaves Abel’s hands free to play and develop fine motor skills.
Gloria and her husband play with all three of their children differently since their involvement with Southwest Solutions. They go to parks, sing, read and play educational games. Moreover, they have learned new ways to talk to their children and better understand their feelings.
Madison, Gloria’s four-year-old daughter, is enrolled in Southwest Solutions’ Head Start program at Avancemos Academy. Sending her oldest to school was a difficult decision for Gloria, but one she does not regret. Madison likes her teacher and excels in the classroom. Although she could remain in Head Start for another year because of her age, Madison tested into kindergarten and will begin in the fall.
Gloria will be back in the classroom in the fall, too. For a second year, she will participate in the English Language Learners Program (ELLP). A native-Spanish speaker, Gloria is excited about this opportunity to learn English. She is also excited about the service projects that ELLP parents coordinate. It is Gloria’s first time doing community service, and she enjoys sharing the experience with her family because it allows her to introduce her children to new places and answer their questions.
The attentiveness of Southwest Solutions’ staff to the multiple needs of Gloria’s family helped Gloria identify signs of autism in Zoe and seek treatment. At seven months old, Zoe responded dramatically to simple challenges and failed to engage others. A Southwest Solutions’ teacher gently pointed out these signs to Gloria and encouraged her to ‘follow her heart as a mother.’
Gloria is grateful to Southwest Solutions staff because she feels that it might have taken her years to understand Zoe’s condition. Increased awareness and early diagnosis and treatment have helped Zoe’s social and intellectual development.