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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

‘From the Beginning, Healthy Families has Been There:’ Young Mom Shares How HF Program Has Helped her Family to Grow

For Erika, Catholic Charities Boston’s Healthy Families program in Haverhill is more than a beneficial parenting resource; it is a treasured community of close-knit companions who have supported her through the complexities of motherhood and acted as role models through some of her family’s greatest challenges.

At 19, Erika was estranged from her immediate family when she found out she was going to become a mother. A chance encounter with a doctor at a Women’s Healthcare Center introduced her to Healthy Families Haverhill and the incredible impact it has had on thousands of women in her shoes. With nothing to lose, Erika signed up and hasn’t looked back since.

“From the very beginning, Healthy Families has been here for me,” she said. “I had a caesarian section and my healthy families coordinator helped me mentally prepare for the process. They provided me with resources while I was pregnant and donated critical baby items, from diapers to wipes to clothing, so that I was ready when my daughter was born.”

When Erika’s daughter arrived in the midst of the pandemic, Erika left her job as a Certified Nursing Assistant to care for her. Maintaining financial stability quickly became a daunting challenge for her and her fiancé, who had young children from a previous relationship. Beyond providing food assistance and ensuring the family had enough to eat during quarantine, Healthy Families donated excess baby formula from Catholic Charities Boston’s food pantries.

“People hear Healthy Families and don’t realize just how helpful it really is,” said Erika. “I’ve made a lot of friends with other moms and found a community.”

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From “Mommy and Me” outings around town, to self-care panels and group gardening days, Healthy Families organizes social events that bring the parents and children together, providing an outlet along with the constant reminder that young parents are not alone.

Erika said the program had a tangible impact on her fiancé as well after his three-year-old daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy and a number of genetic conditions, passed away. From referring him to licensed mental health professionals and grief support resources, to simply checking in on him and offering a compassionate space for him to grieve, Erika said the Healthy Families staff have been incredible in supporting her fiancés healing process as well.

“Erika’s fiancé has been super engaged in the program,” Healthy Families Haverhill Home Visitor, Alexis Wilson. “When I first met him, his mental health was down. He didn’t have insurance or a doctor. Once he got medical support, insurance, and the resources he needed, the whole family’s energy shifted. It has been very rewarding to witness the family’s growth.”

Three months ago, after receiving rent and utilities assistance from the Agency, Erika and her family moved into a new apartment in Haverhill that finally feels like home.

“We have a fenced-in backyard. We are on the first floor, and the landlord is amazing. It is a huge change from what we’ve had in the past,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Healthy Families, I would probably still be in an unsafe environment.”

Just a few weeks ago, Erika returned to work, balancing her part-time role as a CNA with her new job as an office manager. She said she is proud of how far she has come and excited about her family’s future.

“Healthy Families is very goal-driven,” she said. “Every three months or so, we set new goals, challenging ourselves to continue to grow. I am just very grateful for Catholic Charities.”

To find out how you can support Healthy Families and Catholic Charities Boston’s other critical programs, click here.

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