You Can Lend a Helping Hand

My name is Brittney* and I am a participant in the Home Visiting’s Parents as Teachers program through the Mary’s Center. This program has meant so much to me and my three children.

I come from Alabama, raised in a traditional, military family. After college, I earned a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and was married.

When my third child was on the way, things began to change. My husband suddenly wanted to move to Washington D.C. for a job. He refused to allow me to bring my oldest child. I was devastated, but my sister agreed to care for him.  Once in D.C, he refused to work and became physically violent. I was isolated, alone and scared for myself, my toddler and my unborn baby.

Once the baby was born, he allowed me to leave our apartment to go the clinic to get diapers and baby care items. It was there where I met Mary’s Center’s family support worker, Karen a trained parent educator. I wanted to enroll but first I had to ask for my husband’s permission.

Once he agreed, the visits began. During the visits Karen talked with my husband and I about how to observe our baby’s development, and provided handouts suggesting activities we could do with the children to nurture their development. We often talked about nutrition, sleep and other issues.

After a while, she had established a trusting relationship and my husband was accustomed to her visiting us at home. He began leaving us alone for short periods of time.  It was when we were alone that one day she asked me if I was safe. I told her I wasn’t.

She quickly began helping me make a plan to get my family safe and away from the violence. She connected me to a safe house, where we stayed for a month and then transitioned to a battered woman’s shelter where we stayed for 9 months.

“When I was scared and worried that he’d find us, she helped me feel confident that I was doing the right thing for my children. I know now, that being in a domestic violence situation is never ok for a woman and her children. At that time, she was the only trusting adult I had in my life”

One day during a visit, Karen recommended that my toddler should be screened by Early Intervention for a comprehensive developmental, behavioral, vision and hearing evaluation. Soon after, my child was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I was shocked, but also relieved because if she hadn’t his delay may have gone unnoticed until preschool. She connected me to additional benefits for children living with developmental disabilities, as well as, other therapies that would benefit him. She also worked with me as I learned about helping my challenged child.

My family support worker also helped me set my goals as a part of the plan to become independent. She was a trusted voice through all these steps.  My oldest child came to live with us and Karen has taught all of us how to support one another so everyone feels loved and of equal ability. We are a family again.   

Mary’s Center’s Home Visiting Program gave me my life back. I’m safe and away from abuse. I have set a goal to get a full time job, so I can use my Master’s degree and eventually afford to move my children into regular housing.

I never thought I’d be a victim of domestic violence or that my son would have a developmental diagnosis but thanks to the Mary’s Center, my child is receiving the care he needs, I’m alive today to live a plentiful life and enjoy my family. 

As I look toward the future and see the impact that this program had on my life, I can tell you that home visiting is a very effective way to help families

*Name changed to protect participant's privacy


The mission of Mary’s Center’s Home Visiting program is partner with families to ensure that their children are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Almost 600 DC families were served this year alone and received intensive, long-term home visitation services to pregnant and post-partum women and their families. An interdisciplinary team of outreach workers, assessment workers, family support workers, a registered nurse, an in-home mental health provider, and education specialists ensures that participants receive quality, comprehensive medical care and support services along with education and advocacy services. Through this program, we serve D.C. residents until the child reaches five years old.

The program was created from two evidence-based models: The Healthy Families America home visiting model--a national movement to prevent child abuse and neglect-- and the federal Healthy Start program, which is an initiative to reduce infant mortality.

Your support of Mary’s Center has a direct impact on families like Brittney and hundreds of other families in the city who are in need of a helping hand to see them through circumstances that seem insurmountable. Please make a gift today to help create a better tomorrow for these families.


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