Violeta has always been a survivor. From time spent in the foster care system as an adolescent, to recovering from total loss of her savings (to start a business and buy a house) which was taken by two ex-husbands, she has always worked hard and taken care of her children. When Violeta was led to CAW/M’s Head Start program, her multiple life’s challenges were especially severe.
In 2009, Violeta was an abused pregnant mom with five children who was in a domestic violence situation and found safe haven at the Battered Women's Shelter in Medina. Her youngest child was in the Head Start classroom, and she was in the Early Head Start program as a pregnant mom. She found great support among the other women in the shelter – they affirmed each other and encouraged each other as they made plans for the future. Violeta decided to move to Brunswick.
“My whole life started in Brunswick,” smiles Violeta.
She finally received assistance to have her own three bedroom apartment for herself and her children. They did not have much, as everything was left behind when they escaped to the shelter from their home. Violeta participated in CAW/M’s child passenger safety training even though she did not have a reliable vehicle. She tried to take advantage of every opportunity as she rebuilt her life and took care of her children.
(In the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, CAW/M uses a two-generational approach to work with eligible pregnant women, infants, toddlers and preschools through age five and their families. Through home visitation for Early Head Start and preschool sites countrywide for Head Start, learning experiences are offered that support a child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start promotes language and literacy development, early math and science concepts, and positive attitudes toward learning. Staff support learning through play, creative expression, and guided activities. When children enroll in Head Start, they receive medical, dental, hearing, vision, and behavioral screening, with referrals when necessary for follow-up visits to the child’s doctor or to community partners.)
When Johnny was born, he did not pass his initial hearing test at the hospital. An appointment was set for him to have further evaluations at Rainbow Babies in Cleveland in a couple of weeks, yet every time Violeta tried scheduling, she canceled due to lack of transportation and not having a sitter for the other children.
During one weekly visit, Janeen, the Early Head Start Family Home Visitor, noticed that the baby was pale and he was not breathing quite right. Janeen suggested that Johnny be taken to the emergency room, which was just a block away from the apartment. The child ended up have a low oxygen level and was admitted to the hospital for a week with a respiratory virus.
“Janeen saved Johnny’s life,” said Violeta. “I didn’t realize how sick he was.” Violeta finally got an appointment after a couple of months to take the infant to an ENT for the hearing screening at a closer office in Medina. It took 8 separate visits at 2 different locations with the audiologist over several months to determine that the child had a mild hearing loss at low frequencies. Johnny received hearing aids, and began using some sign language. When Johnny was two and was still not talking at his age level, Violeta accepted a referral to Help Me Grow. The intervention provided in-home services with another therapist.
“Head Start helped me grow, not just the kids,” said Violeta. Our home visitor Janeen helped us feel safe and loved. She never gave up on me.”
Not having a good relationship with her family, Violeta had left home as a young teenager, and had always worked. Also, early in her adult life, Violeta owned a restaurant and over the years practiced good planning and saving habits. Child care was the most practical service she gravitated toward as she raised her own children so she began providing in-home child care for others.
As Violeta began to get back on her feet, she resumed providing in home child care as she did prior to being in the shelter. She was limited to the number of clients she could take having children of her own in the home. “I model my play stations and educational materials from everything I learned and observed in Head Start,” she smiles.
Without reliable transportation, Violeta walked most places and for five years admired a home located next to a church. She thought it would be a terrific site for an in-home day care and prayed about it. She started attending the church and mentioned to a friend in the congregation that she admired the home next door. That friend told Violeta that she was renting the house and was moving out and encouraged her to rent from the church.
When she and her six children moved into the home from the small apartment, they marveled at the wonderful space. “Manny started flying through the house like an airplane – he was so excited,” said Violeta.
The home has a fenced yard, and a basement. Violeta started collecting donated items and setting up what is now her own successful licensed day care in her home.
In 2007, she obtained her license to operate an in-home daycare center. Her son transitioned into the classroom and received itinerant services through the city schools. With the success of her child care business, Violeta was able to purchase a good used van for her family. She and her oldest daughter have taken Child Development Classes together through the local adult education program to further their education and continue to provide quality child care in-home. Violeta’s goals now are to continue her education and to achieve Step Up to Quality star ratings for her childcare center.
Another milestone Violeta is proud of – recently, she was able to take her family on their first vacation--to Disney World!
“Head Start opened my eyes and opened the door to my opportunities,” said Violeta.