As the Ohio Senate debates House Bill 33, the FY 24-25 Budget Bill, one of our asks of policymakers is to restore the nearly $20 million cut for the state evidence-based home visiting program, Help Me Grow. Investing in Help Me Grow is an investment in preventing traumatic and adverse experiences for young children. It is a direct investment in
Ohio families to increase positive outcomes for children.
The following guest blog, written by one of our Early Childhood Leadership Fellows, describes the vital service home visitors provide.
By: Sandra Adams, Class of 2022 Early Childhood Leadership Fellowship, Home Visitor with Help Me Grow Brighter Futures, Miami Valley Hospital
I am a Home Visitor with Help Me Grow Brighter Futures in Montgomery County that works mostly with the Latino community.
I have been a Home Visitor for about 18 years. A Home Visitor visits families from pregnancy up until the child goes to preschool and guides the parents and children through development. We are a source of support and guide the parents through tough life obstacles, as well as serve as cheerleaders though milestones.
And as a bilingual Home Visitor, I work primarily with families that speak Spanish in the home.
Let me start by giving you a little bit of my background.
Imagine a short, 9-year-old girl, stomping up the loud, creaky wooden stairs of a 150-year-old 3-story apartment home in the outskirts of Boston, excited to tell her mom about her day at school. As she opens the door the smell of Arroz con Gandules y Pollo Guisado, rice with pigeon beans and stewed chicken, is cooking on the stove and as the aroma hits her, she thinks to herself, “Yes! Mom is making my favorite dish. This day is only getting better.”
I am that girl. As I walk to my mom and excitedly start telling her about my day, I am immediately stopped and told, “Dímelo en Español.” (Tell me in Spanish). I get frustrated; it’s not that I don’t know how to speak Spanish, it’s just the fact that it will take me longer and I have to think harder. I annoyingly say a few words in Spanish and continue my story in English, only to be stopped again with my mom saying, “No te entiendo,” (I don’t understand). The 9-year-old me is starting to get upset and says, Tu entiendes, es que no me quieres escuchar.” (You understand, you just don’t want to listen).
Feeling defeated, my initial excitement was over and my favorite dish didn't help my mood at all.
It’s not that my American culture was intentionally being erased, but rather that my mom was teaching us to hold our heads up high, embrace who we were and love our Puerto Rican culture in a predominantly American Caucasian community where my family was viewed as outsiders.
My background in both cultures made me realize my calling and passion in the Home Visiting world. I wanted to make an impact in the Latino community so they wouldn’t feel like outsiders in a community rather than part of one, as I once did. I wanted to help them see that they could be the best parents they could be even though their first language isn’t English. Others may still view them as outsiders, but that shouldn’t be an impact on their child’s future.
Parents in the Latino community, like any other community, want the best for their children. They are excited to be the ones providing the beginning education for their children in areas that they didn’t think they could. They are excited to learn about their child’s development and what they could do to further that development. They are excited to feel included in a community in a way that they can express themselves in their own language, know that they could continue speaking their own language in the home, and have proof that speaking Spanish in their home will not stop their children from being successful.
Let me give you an example on how powerful Home Visiting in the parent’s native language could be.
I had the pleasure of serving a first-time mom during pregnancy. Halfway through her pregnancy, she was told the devastating news that there was a problem with the baby and he may not make it to birth. Being a bilingual home visitor, I was able to explain to mom what the diagnoses was. I had to tailor my visits to reflect outcomes that were supportive rather than positive. That was no easy task and one that would be a million times harder if visits were made with interpreters rather than in mom’s native langue. I was able to understand her, communicate with her, and support her.
Months later, we cried with glee together after the baby was born and the complications they thought baby would be born with were not as significant as the medical staff initially presented. Once the baby was here, I did my best to look for resources that were in mom’s native language in order to set both her and baby up for success.
Through home visiting, I cried with mom as we saw his first steps and heard his first words. Today this child is a thriving elementary school student living a normal life.
Take a moment to think of how different this scenario would have been if services would not have been in mom’s native language. She might have been confused, scared, or uninformed. She would have felt alone and unsupported, and she would not have been as prepared as she was for motherhood.
Representation matters. My wish is that Home Visiting would be provided in the native language spoken in the home they are visiting, whether it is Spanish or Swahili, French or English. Every mother deserves a support she can understand.
Thanks, Sandra! Learn more about home visiting here.