MCH Family Outreach in Tyler Empowers a Struggling Mom to Thrive
A playground brings out the joy in any child and on a bright, crisp, sun-drenched spring afternoon at a park in Tyler, Texas, Ebonie’s three children are no different.
Dytristen, age 6, is first up the path and is soon shrieking with glee from the top of a tower with several twisting slides. A’niyah, age 10, is playing the role of a reserved big sister who’d rather be somewhere else, trailing behind 2-year-old Dymond, who is intent on doing everything his brother Dytristen is doing. Soon all three children are running back and forth across the playground, laughing and smiling as their mother looks on.
Ebonie will be the first to admit she’s coming out of a hard place, but things are looking up – thanks in part to her determination coupled with the help she’s received from MCH Family Outreach in Tyler.
According to Madison Lasse, family preservation case manager at MCH in Tyler, many of the referrals received by the office are single mothers who are jobless and living in extreme poverty situations, needing support in child development and financial assistance.
Ebonie was different in that she had a job, but was running on empty in her ability to parent her children and break the cycle of negative habits learned from the community and family environment she knew growing up. After a difficult situation with her children last year, Ebonie was referred to MCH Family Outreach by a CPS caseworker.
“I was at a point where I knew I needed to be further along in life in terms of parenting my kids,” she said. “It seemed like everything I did was wrong and I was always angry and frustrated with them.”
“I want to parent and raise my kids in a different way than how I was raised,” she said determinedly. “I don’t want to put my hands on them.”
Lasse said it is understandable that new clients can be apprehensive and wary when meeting with a case manager for the first time, but said Ebonie was quick to see that MCH was solidly on her side.
“Normally during our first visit I emphasize that we are here to advocate for them, support them and see their family thrive,” Lasse said. “Ebonie was a bit guarded when she first met with me, but at the end of our first visit she had relaxed a lot and said I was easy to talk to.”
Ebonie received support through Family Solutions, an MCH Family Outreach program in which a case manager meets weekly with the family to set goals and offer support as they find solutions to their challenges. Family Solutions is facilitated through all 13 MCH Family Outreach locations across Texas and New Mexico.
Lasse helped Ebonie develop a plan to strengthen her family and also helped connect them to services in Tyler which would help even more. Through weekly meetings with Ebonie, she taught and reinforced parenting skills and helped her set achievable goals as a mother.
Ebonie said she and her children have bonded as a result of meeting with Lasse and have implemented several things to help in the home, such as a behavioral chart. With Lasse’s help, Ebonie was able to get Dytristen, who had been acting out with emotional outbursts, into a center that uses therapeutic massage and positive reinforcement as therapy for over-active children.
Lately, the children have begun responding to Ebonie’s efforts to be intentional about having family time and activities, “instead of always just allowing them to be with their friends so they’d be out of my hair,” she said. “Now we sit at the table together and talk about their day. We have structure, and that’s not a bad word.”
More than anything, through her meetings with MCH Family Outreach, Ebonie said she began to notice that her feelings of being overwhelmed by life were becoming less frequent.
“Without MCH and Madison, I probably would have moved us all in with my mom and just screamed for help,” she said. “But now I have faith and believe in myself. It’s me, too, who needs to learn, not just the kids. I’m better, but I’m a work in progress. I used to feel weak and bad – less than a woman – when I couldn’t handle my kids and all I did was come down on them.”
Ebonie hopes to one day work in the travel industry, because more than anything, “I want my kids to see the world. I want them to have everything, but also know they get that by working hard.”
“One of the best things now is that I have an open mind,” she added. “I know I can be a good mother and there is so much more I can do. I don’t have to be stuck in the same cycle as I was raised. Madison brought me my confidence back.”