The dry climate in El Paso, Texas, gives crystal-clear visibility for miles and miles, especially from the top of the Franklin Mountains overlooking the city to the north. From this vantage point, the sprawling border town blends almost seamlessly with Juarez, Mexico, with only the Rio Grande River dividing the two cities and countries. To the east, the Hueco Mountains rise from the flat desert terrain, backed further by the ridges of the Guadalupe Mountains that travel into New Mexico.
Driving southeast on Interstate 10 out of El Paso, the community of Horizon City – where the comfortable, Southwestern-style home of Jose and Perla Molina is located – offers spectacular views of the mountain ranges that seem to encircle the area.
The Molinas have faced different kinds of mountains in their own lives – the looming, relational kind that once threatened to crumble and fall around them, bringing down their marriage and destroying their family. But with the help of MCH Family Outreach in El Paso, they now have a firm foundation with their eyes fixed on new horizons.
Jose and Perla married five years ago. Introduced by a friend who is married to Perla’s sister, Jose said they “just clicked.” Jose, a native of El Paso, brought Perla from her home in Mexico to marry and settle in the United States. Both had past relationships and brought children into their marriage. They’ve since added to the family and now have five girls: D Alexa, 15; Brianna, 11; Debbie, 4; and twins Madeline and Atiana, 2.
Creating a blended family was challenging for the Molinas, especially for Perla who did not speak English and had to rely entirely on Jose. The couple endured a yearlong separation early in the marriage. More recently, the stress of their home situation boiled to the point that one of the older girls mentioned to a schoolteacher that she was afraid of her stepfather. As teachers are required to do, a report was filed with Child Protective Services (CPS).
CPS directed the Molinas to enroll in a program to strengthen their family and provided Perla with a menu of community organizations she could select. After learning about the Family Solutions program from Alma Vera, case manager at MCH Family Outreach in El Paso, Perla knew she had found the organization that could help her family.
Family Solutions is available through all 14 MCH Family Outreach offices across Texas and New Mexico. The program provides a combination of individual and family services, case management and advocacy to help the family meet its needs so children grow to be healthy and successful at home, at school and in the community.
“Mrs. Molina voiced that she felt a sense of acceptance [with MCH] and we quickly built a rapport as we developed a plan to help the family,” Alma said. “She responded so positively and immediately set goals that would help with her aspirations and with her family interactions and support.”
Alma helped Perla set goals to strengthen her abilities to acclimate to the United States and give her tools to further provide and advocate for her family. She also helped her register for GED classes, citizenship classes, and English classes, so she would be able to assist her daughters with homework and school assignments. In collaboration with the PEN Project in El Paso, Perla enrolled her 4-year-old daughter in pre-K receiving Special Education services. The babies have also had medical needs that Alma helped the Molinas navigate.
Alma and Perla meet weekly at the family’s home, usually while the older girls are in school and the babies are napping. Jose works in two-week shifts in the oil and gas industry more than 200 miles away in Pecos, Texas. He joins the meetings when he is home every two weeks, and when he is away he tries to join the discussion through a video call.
“I appreciate both of their attitudes about the program,” Alma said. “They’re always available and participate fully. Mrs. Molina has responded positively to the Family Solutions program – she’s putting in the work needed to see change in her family dynamics.”
Alma said the meetings involve working on mindfulness, self-care and self-awareness, followed by “discussion about the family, where they are emotionally and what resources the family needs.
“Mrs. Molina is very smart,” she added. “She’s been a business owner and has medical experience. Having five children has been a struggle, especially with the health of the babies.”
Having CPS involved in their family was a wake-up call for Jose and served as a catalyst for a true heart transformation.
“For me, it was finding Jesus Christ that helped me take a stand and determine ‘that’s not going to happen to my family,’” he said. “When you start to learn about Jesus, it changes everything about your life. Before, I didn’t think about [Perla’s] emotions, her real needs and what she might be struggling with. I thought only from an economical mindset – that I’ve got to work to provide. Now, God has helped me understand I need to pay attention to other things. I came to value these because of Christ in my life. It takes time and patience and a lot of work, but my mentality has changed and I know I need to fight for my family.
“I’ll be honest, when we first got the CPS case, I was really rebellious,” he admitted. “But growth comes through bad times. I hear about it every day at work – divorces, kids being abandoned and neglected; it’s happening all over. Family Solutions is such a great program for families – it has been so valuable for all of us. We need more of this.”
Perla said the changes in her husband are evident.
“There has been such a huge change in his life – we’ve learned to be friends,” she said with a smile. “He talks to me, he helps with the children. Our communication is better and we help each other. I receive a lot of emotional support and he asks me about my needs.”
Perla said working with Alma and MCH Family Outreach has helped her change, as well, and the lessons she is learning through Family Solutions are helping her be a better parent for her daughters.
“It’s quite difficult to ask for help, but I’m learning that I have to be healthy myself before my family can be healthy,” she said. “I’ve grown in confidence – I wasn’t confident before about learning English. I wasn’t feeling secure about going to a school to learn.
“I’ve also learned to be open-minded with my daughters when communicating with them,” she added. “I was very strict. But I’ve learned that I can be friends with my daughters without losing authority.”
Jose said he wants to do everything possible to rebuild health and connection in his family and expressed gratefulness for the resources MCH Family Outreach in El Paso provides.
“MCH is really helping us achieve growth in our family,” he said. “Before, I thought the way to do it was to keep our problems inside the family. But now I like to consider us a family in recovery. It’s a process to defeat the bad things that happened. Ms. Alma told me in the beginning – ‘If you are willing, we can help you.’ She has been such a great help to us, to my wife especially. There’s nothing we’ve asked that she hasn’t had a solution.”
As healing takes root and the Molinas continue to learn valuable principles from Family Solutions, mountains that were once threatening are becoming a part of the horizons of a secure future.
“I want to help our daughters get ahead and thrive in school,” Perla said. “And I want to continue working to build a healthy marriage and family. MCH has helped so much with that and we are so thankful.”
Jose knows there is work still to be done, but is committed to the work.
“We need a lot of healing – the girls, my wife, myself – and a lot of emotional support,” Jose said. “It’s my hope that we get that healing and then grow successfully in life as a family and together take on what life puts in front of us.”