When faced with so many seemingly insurmountable challenges, it’s difficult to be hopeful. For Bridget, Community’s Action Wayne/Medina’s Early Head Start and Head Start preschool helped her find her way back to hope, showed the way to nurture resilience and provided early childhood education and development that made a difference in the achievement capabilities of her children.

“Now I expect respect,” smiles Bridget. “I know that I’m a good worker and have confidence is speaking up for myself in my personal relationships.”

In 1998 when Bridget was pregnant with her second child, a Children’s Services worker suggested enrolling her son in Head Start preschool which would benefit him while giving Bridget a break in her day to rest.

“It was great – he really thrived,” said Bridget. “Then I reconnected with Head Start with my third baby and started working with Miss Jeannette in the Early Head Start program.”

Mother of five, Bridget found her visits from Miss Jeannette to be the oasis of her week, looking forward to the baby development play activities, reading time, goal setting, planning and achievement.

“I don’t think she (Jeannette) realizes how many lives she touches,” said Bridget. “She always believed in me and that I could do better. Early Head Start is such a blessing. My kids are better for it. They literally got a head start.”

Jeannette was her home visitor for 3 of her 5 children as well as when she was a pregnant mom. A few obstacles Bridget has overcome during that period include being homeless with five children living at a shelter, severe depression, a disability, involvement with Children Services, a miscarriage and the loss of a twin pregnancy at six months. She was a single mom who provided for her children to the best of her ability at the time. As her children graduated from Head Start into the public school system, Bridget continued to become more successful in reaching her goals - purchasing a mobile home and working a full time job.

Bridget credits Miss Jeannette with always going the extra mile – visiting her in the hospital, taking calls from her when she needed reassurance – even creating picture books for the children. “She captured so many memories I wouldn’t have otherwise,” smiles Bridget.

The continuity of having the same teacher was valuable for the trust built. “She did not judge me, did support me, is someone I could trust who was consistent and never gave up on us,” says Bridget. “You have to have a special heart to do this (work).”

Bridget is especially grateful for the Early Head Start program teaching her the habit of goal planning. Three to six month goals are set for each child, as well as life goals for the Head Start parent. Steps are planned to make it happen and the Head Start teacher supports the family with accessing resources and providing encouragement. Bridget recalls a goal she had to find a better home for her family when one of her children fell through the floor in an aging home they were renting.

While raising her children as a single mother, Bridget was out of the workforce for 13 years. Currently, she works fulltime and loves it. She noted that in raising her children, she missed adult conversation and looked forward to the Moms and Dads family nights (”Really cool!”) CAW/M offers twice monthly in each county.

In the past with her disability, taking care of work, children, housekeeping and the challenges of lowincome financial stability, Bridget found it difficult to attend to all areas adequately. Now that she is working and gaining confidence in her capability and hope for the future, she finds her capacity for dealing with the whole picture is improving. She now owns her own home and vehicle and works as many hours as possible as she plans for a better future.

Bridget’s hopes for the future: “That my house and van are paid off and that my children can be happy and healthy.”

“Anyone could benefit from Head Start,” says Bridget. “Especially single parents. With so many latchkey kids, they need to learn hope to take care of themselves and be resilient and build on that as they get older. Only one of my five children did not have the benefit of the Head Start program and she had noticeably more difficulties, more social anxiety and is not as a good a reader as the others. During that weekly visit, the whole family feels safe and it gives you hope for the rest of the week and for the future.”