Tina Daniels had been watching her friend’s daughter for weeks when she finally decided to make the leap.
The young girl was coming home from school with excitement, and she was learning at an impressive level. Tina asked her friend about the child’s schooling, and soon learned that it was the result of Lutheran Family Services’ Head Start Program.
Convinced that this was something her own daughter, Iy’lashia, would benefit from, Tina enrolled her right away.
The two walked miles each day just to get to the school, and soon Tina’s sweet girl was having fun and making new friends—Tina was proud of getting her daughter on track.
But soon, everything changed.
After a short time in class, COVID hit and the struggling mother had to stay home to be with her children. Because she no longer had childcare and had to tend to her kids, she was let go from her job.
The termination sent Tina into a downward spiral, and the depression and anxiety she dealt with in her past were suddenly triggered again.
“I’d battled this for years and it caused me to shut down physically and mentally,” Tina recalled.
Like many parents, she tried to manage teaching her kids at home, but the complexities of online learning and the growing weight of her depression and anxiety made it especially difficult. Still, she refused to ask for help, telling herself I can do this.
Then things got worse.
Her fiancé lost his job, and soon they lost their home. In the blink of an eye, they’d suffered the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of families across the world– the pandemic was affecting everything from their finances to their mental health and their housing.
After a few months, Iy’lashia took a standardized curriculum test, and she didn’t do well. The scores revealed that she was seriously below level, and Tina had a wake-up call.
“I wasn’t able to help her focus on her virtual assignments, and I realized with [everything going on] I’d been neglecting my children,” Tina confessed.
She knew that if she wanted to see things turn around for her daughter’s education, she’d have to enlist the help of those around her.
Tina reached out and made in-person arrangements for her daughter to attend school with her classmates. She also began talking to staff members about her personal situation, opening up about the struggles the family was facing behind the scenes.
“They asked me about my goals, and I told them that I wanted stable housing and I wanted to get care for my mental health.”
The conversation with staff members helped her to determine tangible next steps. Tina called her therapist to get back into consistent sessions, and she worked to secure a new home for her family in January 2020.
“We don’t have much [in the new home], but we’re grateful,” Tina smiled.
Best of all, her daughter received the support she needed to begin thriving in school again.
Since Tina lacked the confidence and skills to teach her daughter, she asked Iy’lashia’s teachers for strategies that she could use when they were alone.
The teachers introduced her to different tools, apps, and activities to help reinforce her school lessons anywhere— the tactics could be used while they were at home, at the store, or in the park.
“They showed me how to actually make learning fun for her,” Tina said. “I take pride in my children’s education, and every time she gets home from school, I look forward to seeing what she learned.”
When asked about whether she’d recommend the LSF Head Start program to a friend, Tina didn’t hesitate:
“Without LSF, I’d be lost, pulling my hair out, and without hope. But now I’m a better ME.”
She reflects on her journey and added, “Lutheran Services Florida has great programs; you just got to have that drive to help your child succeed in life.”