K, a single mother of two daughters contacted Supporting Families in Crisis (SFC) for assistance with either her rent or her utilities. She was behind on her bills because she was getting counseling services for her daughter without Medicaid and paying out of pocket for therapies 3 times per week. K was also utilizing neurologist services for her neurological disorder.
The SFC advocate assisted the family on completing a public assistance application and the family was approved for Medicaid and food stamps which will help the family on a monthly basis. The SFC advocate was also able to problem solve with K to get the rent paid with help from a family member and SFC was able to assist with part of the utility bill which avoided an eviction and kept her utilities from being shutoff. K had recently moved to the area from another state to get away from a violent relationship. K’s daughter was diagnosed with autism and an appointment was made for the daughter down in the Miami area, but she had no transportation. The SFC advocate was able to link the family with Medicaid transportation so the family can travel to the apartment.
As a new parent gazing into your baby’s eyes for the first time you realize quickly this is the greatest responsibility you will ever have. Imagine the apprehension of first-time parents, the excitement, and of course, the lack of sleep.
Now imagine as the baby grows, he fails to meet developmental milestones. At 10 months of age, he is not attempting to crawl or stand. A trip to the doctor’s office at his first birthday reveals that he is developmentally behind and there is reason for concern. At 18 months, trips to specialists indicate that perhaps the baby had a stroke in the womb, but the results are inconclusive. Imagine those feelings of excitement and wonder now being replaced with stress and concern and overwhelming helplessness, questioning “is my child normal?”
The family in this story is referred to Easter Seals’ Early Steps program. The Early Steps program provides guidance, support and education to children with special developmental needs and their families. Their services include testing and physical, speech and occupational therapies. Utilizing state and local match funds (from the Children’s Service Council of St. Lucie County), federal funds are drawn down to help work with families with children with developmental delays up to age 3, benefiting more than 40,000 families each year in Florida.
The child in this story receives multiple sessions a week of specialized therapies, while the parents are educated so that they can practice the same activities at home. Without Early Steps, these therapies would cost $175 per session and would be inconceivable for most working families.
After 18 months of therapy, the child is nearly caught up developmentally in speech, physical and occupational skills. The family is provided with a plan to work with their son at home and is referred to other community resources. And perhaps most importantly, the Early Steps program has provided the parents the reassurance necessary to guide their child preventing further delays for their son at his most vulnerable time.
I can write passionately about the Early Steps program because the child in this story is my son, Zane. Today, Zane has a diagnosis of muscular myopathy — a disease in which the muscle fibers do not function, resulting in muscle weakness. Because of the Early Steps program, their supportive staff, and ultimately the therapies provided, my son was able to largely catch up with his peers — and not slide further behind.
The Easter Seal’s Early Steps program is only possible because of the partnerships between organizations at the federal and state levels, as well as the Children’s Services Council. This program represents one part of a system of care developed by the Children’s Services Council that is available to all newborns in our community.
Beginning with the voluntary nurse home visitation program through all three hospitals providing needed information and checking on the health of the newborn and the mother, services continue with Helping People Succeed’s BRAIN program which educates parents about developmental milestones and ways they can stimulate brain development. If a milestone is missed, like with my son, there are supports like Easter Seals Early Steps program to address developmental issues. This support system is available to ALL children in St. Lucie County. Last year, 86 percent of all newborns received these critical services.
St. Lucie County is unique in the support it provides its newest residents. I can attest — my wife and I are forever grateful for the support provided to not only our son, but to our family.
One parent writes:
It’s hard to find the words to express my gratitude to the staff of Camp Holiday/ Daniel M Foundation. A little over a year ago my boys and I came to "camp" not knowing what to expect. My sons, Nathan and Rusty, took to the staff right away, and we were welcomed with open arms. It truly touches me how the staff have been so patient and genuinely caring with my boys.
Nathan has made an enormous amount of progress this year. He is being held accountable for his own actions (and homework) during the after school program, and also being given the opportunity to mature and enjoy adventures away from home during the summer camp. Nathan has changed from a little boy to a young man. He enjoys the praise and activities he earns there when he makes the right choices and the bonds he’s built with his peers and the staff.
Rusty is a very sweet, intelligent, and challenging child. When I was first referred to Daniel M Foundation I didn’t expect them to be able to handle my boy, who is greatly affected by his ADHD and Autism. (No other facilities I had encountered wanted to or could handle his level of need.) Camp Holiday quickly showed me that, though they are limited as to how late he can stay, they weren’t giving up on him or turning him away. They implemented a routine for him and require positive choices from him for positive results. The consistency of their expectations and constant communication have aided in Rusty’s growth towards age appropriate social interaction, compliance with authority figures, and his urge to leave his comfort zone.
Both of my boys love going to "camp” and have benefited greatly from the educational caring and patient environment. I’m truly grateful to all the staff at The Daniel M Foundation/Camp Holiday for adding love, acceptance, and growth to our lives. Thank you also to those who make it possible for Daniel M Foundation to continue to provide its services to families like mine.