Parent Shares Her Head Start Story
Parent Shares Her Head Start Story

When we found The Family Conservancy (TFC) we were struggling to find a program (child care) that would accept our son. Originally, I had an entire game plan from the day we found out I was pregnant. I worked at a community center that had a 5-star preschool on site. I had called and put him on the waitlist the minute that I found out I was pregnant, that is what mom's there did. The staff of the preschool were my co-workers. Our family had a plan and we were so excited!

A week before school was set to start, the preschool director and my coworker called me and requested an assessment of our son. She was concerned, based on information that she had heard, that they would not be able to meet his needs. I was nervous. I called one of his early intervention therapists and asked her to attend the assessment with my husband and I. While we didn't know it yet, our son was born with a very rare genetic syndrome. He is one of about 60 in the world. When we attended the assessment, reality hit me. He wasn't going to be able to attend the preschool that I had planned on. When they denied him, I felt like our world was crushed. When we left the center that day, I felt devastated. However, my husband stayed positive. He said, "it is probably meant to be. There is probably something better out there for him."

We drove around our city that day and found that many providers didn't feel comfortable working with children that aren't "typical". He was denied from four other child care facilities between my work and our home due to his disabilities. The irony I have found in this now, is with the increase of autism, rare conditions and rare diseases, the need for "non typical" children's programs is becoming somewhat typical.

I cried to everyone that night, including making a public plea on Facebook. A friend suggested a special therapy preschool in the area that happened to also be affiliated with TFC. The tuition at the preschool was very high. Adding on the cost of the individual therapy, it seemed impossible. While I felt like there was no hope and it was an impossible opportunity, I continued to work with the organizations. Together, TFC and the preschool, were able to help us get approved and find funding for our son to attend this magnificent little gem of a preschool — proving there is hope. Also proving that my husband is sometimes right. There was something better out there for him — for our family.

When touring Ability KC, the social worker at the preschool, told me about TFC and their Head Start program. She explained that the programs offered could help our son and our entire family find resources, funding and supports in our community. It also guaranteed our son, a full time slot, in the child care program. This would allow our family to focus on funding for the therapy program he would need.

Through our preschools relationship with TFC, there are opportunities for parent engagement through parent committees. I serve as the chair person at our preschool for the parent committee. At TFC, II serve as a community representative. It has allowed me a great opportunity to connect with other parents, to learn from them and to share our experience and knowledge. I have become a parent mentor at the preschool and in the community thanks to the success that our family has seen by building these relationships. These committee's also allow us to work with the staff of our preschool and TFC. Together we try to make policies that best meet everyone's needs.

These committees allow me and the other parents to feel respected for our opinions. We know when a policy is passed, our voice is being heard. We know when we share the family's input, and the different organizations use that in their decision making, the families will feel stronger and more engaged. By working with our child care center and TFC, we have all become one unit, a unit whose goal is to strengthen families and the community.

If I could tell other families about the benefits of working with TFC, I would tell them to definitely go for it! It will be life changing, not only for your child, but for your entire family. They have taught me, and many other parents, how to be stronger advocates at a local, state and national level. They have encouraged me to participate in various trainings that they offer and connected me to resource opportunities that not only support our son, but me as a professional working mother. Their goal is to make the community stronger, by making the family stronger and including opportunities for family engagement.