I didn’t always know that I was autistic, but I have always had great anxiety and difficulty forming and keeping relationships. I used to worry that I would be a terrible mother, or that someone would take my children away because of my mental illness. So before my first child was even born, I made sure to sign up for Early Head Start. I wanted someone to witness my parenting and keep me on a good track. I wanted to have evidence that I was a good parent to keep anybody who doubted me from taking my children away. I was right to worry.
A poorly-trained home visitor came to our home and didn’t care to follow the house rules. When she left, I had an anxiety attack about the way she abused my trust. Because she heard me having a panic attack after she closed the door, she called the police and Child Protective Services, telling them that she believed my children weren’t safe. I then had to prove that I wasn’t a danger to my children.
Luckily, there was another mandated reporter who visited my home every week, from our Infant Toddler Program. She had at one time been an Early Head Start home visitor, and she vouched for my fitness as a parent. The way she and other home visitors applauded the relationship between me and my children gave me a huge boost of self-confidence as a parent with autism, and saved me from losing my daughters.
With my children in Early Head Start now, my daughter’s speech delay has disappeared and I have had an opportunity to do some things to take care of myself. I have been able to leave the children at school and complete medical treatments I needed. I’ve been encouraged to broaden the activities our little family does together. My husband and I are spending more time together. I’ve started volunteering to try to help those who are losing their homes due to COVID. I’ve become a WSA Parent Ambassador to try to help other families get the EHS education they need. I’m also starting a business that may someday pull our little family out of poverty! All of that was helped along by Early Head Start.
EHS hasn’t just improved my parenting and provided childcare. It’s holistically lifted our whole family up. I think that every child deserves access to the same resources that helped me through these very formative years, through postpartum depression and a developmental delay and my discovery of my own autism. In some ways, we were better off because of my disability; there was not much question of whether my income qualified us for the program. But there was never a question of need. Every parent needs childcare. Every child needs Early Head Start.