When Christina learned she was pregnant, she was filled with both joy and panic. As a child of recovering addicts, she wondered if it was possible to give her child a better life than she had. She didn’t know who to learn from, or who to lean on. A few months into her pregnancy she lost her biggest supporter, her grandmother. And something clicked.
“I didn’t want to be a statistic,” said Christina. “I realized that I needed support outside of just my family. I wanted to know how best to raise my child.”
Christina turned to the Bushwick Bright Start program that was in her community. Bushwick Bright Start is an evidence-based home-visiting program in Brooklyn that provides paraprofessional family support workers for new or struggling mothers. Family support workers provide participating moms with weekly home-based parent education and support, child development techniques, and referrals to needed services.
I knew my dream of becoming a great mom was going to come true.
The first time Christina met her family support worker, she felt as if she knew her forever. She entered Christina’s home with a big bright smile, and asked her how she felt about her pregnancy. Christina shared her past, and all of her fears about being a first-time mother. Her family support worker assured her that she would be a support whenever she needed it. She told Christina she was proud of her for taking this first step, and she had full confidence she would be a wonderful and capable mother. When her family support worker left that first day, Christina broke down in tears. “I knew my dream of becoming a great mom was going to come true.”
Christina’s family support worker visited her weekly when her son was born. “It was such a comfort to have that consistency. She was always just a phone call away,” Christina says. Christina felt that her family support worker met her right where she was in life. She acted as an advocate, held her accountable to be the best mom she could be, and was a cheerleader when she felt down about parenting. Her boyfriend was engaged to be an involved as a father and a teammate.
“Having that support empowered me to be my own mom, and to make my own decisions. To be brave about new mom challenges, like breastfeeding,” Christina remembered. “Help can come from outside a family. It takes a village.”
The first few years of motherhood were incredibly challenging for Christina. She was a fulltime working mom, and missed a lot of ‘first-times’. Her son had frequent ear infections, and did not seem to be developing typically. Her family support worker played a major role to get Christina’s son a proper diagnosis for his development delays and early intervention services. “She asked me lots of questions about his development. If it were not for those questions, I wouldn’t have known he was autistic. When my son was diagnosed on the spectrum, I needed a lot of support to understand his needs, get the resources we needed, and get everybody on board for my son to develop well. He received early intervention services and now he is thriving.”
I always say that I am the painter, my son is the canvas, and my family support worker gave me all the colors I need to paint a masterpiece.
On her good days and bad days, Christina never felt like a burden to her family support worker. “When they say that they care, they mean it. With every mother’s day card and father’s day card, we knew they really cared.”
“I always say that I am the painter, my son is the canvas, and my family support worker gave me all the colors I need to paint a masterpiece.”
Today, Christina is proud to be a family support worker herself at the very same site where she received services. “I am surrounded by powerful women—all mothers—who are empowering other mothers. I know we are making a difference in our community, and it is a good feeling. I am so grateful every day.”
Christina often tells expecting and struggling parents about the Bushwick Bright Start program. She tells them, “If I can do this, anyone can do it. With the right support system, everyone is capable of being a successful parent and person. You just need to take that first step to ask for help.”
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