Kíara first came to Santa Maria Community Services seeking her High School Equivalency (HSE) over five years ago. She was able to pass all of her exams very quickly. Once she attained her HSE, she began attending Brown Mackie College. Her schooling was cut short, however, when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. That’s when Kíara found herself having to pivot.
Kíara started receiving services through Santa Maria’s Every Child Succeeds Program (ECS) with her firstborn daughter, Marielle, now 5. She continued in ECS with her other children, Kamyla-2 and Princess Reign-1 and she has another currently on the way. Over the last five years, she’s also received assistance from the Moving Beyond Depression, and Santa Maria’s Promoting Our Preschoolers programs, as well as SMCS’s financial coaching. In addition, she was connected to resources to obtain clothes, shoes, and baby items.
Every Child Succeeds program promotes positive parenting and healthy child development both prenatally and during the crucial first 1,000 days of life. It was just after her first child was born that Kíara discovered she was suffering from post-partum depression. Her coach and Every Child Succeeds Program Manager at Santa Maria, JoAnn Dwyer, referred Kíara to the Moving Beyond Depression program. Moving Beyond Depression gives mothers who suffer from depression the treatment they need to function optimally and support their child’s development. “My therapist really helped me see the other side of things and help me fight my postpartum,” Kíara said. When Kíara felt like she needed more support, she was introduced to HONOR With Class, a community behavioral health center, for additional help. Through receiving ECS services, Kíara learned about child development and parenting resources which inspired her to want to become a preschool teacher.
After Marielle and Kíara graduated from ECS, they moved on to Santa Maria’s Promoting our Preschoolers (POP) program where they worked with Jaime Mutter, POP Program Manager. The POP Program is one of Santa Maria’s family-focused kindergarten-readiness programs that works collaboratively with families, schools, and the community through home-visitation. Jaime said, “Kíara is a young mom who has had to face many battles in her life. She has tremendous strength and resilience. Her children are so important to her, and she will move mountains to give them everything they need.”
Kíara also enrolled in Santa Maria’s Rent Wise: Tenant Education course. Rent Wise offers information on budgeting and affordable housing, finding and applying for housing, tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities, and home care and managing utilities. Kíara learned how to make a family budget and stick to it. She also got a job at Next Generation Learning Center teaching 4 and 5-year-olds.
Kíara received coaching from several Santa Maria staff members. She said, “All of my workers were very compassionate and understanding. They helped me get all of the things I needed to be successful. They helped me set goals and reach them. They worked hard at their job.” Staying focused was a challenge, but Kíara was determined not to let anything get in her way- not even depression. Jaime was impressed by her fortitude, “Kíara has taught me that relationships and trust are so important to our work with families. Kíara shared herself with us. She trusted us when it must have been so difficult to do. Because of that trust and the relationships we made with her and her children we were able to guide her and give her strength when she needed it most.”
Kíara received assistance with clothes, shoes, and baby items as well as transportation assistance through Santa Maria. She said that she learned how to bond with her children by doing simple homemade activities that don’t cost a lot of money. “Working with Santa Maria has helped me and my family on an emotional level because it has brought me and my children closer and it also taught me how to be calm and patient with my children,” Kíara said.
“Without help from Santa Maria my life would probably be very strained, stressed and behind,” Kíara continued. She is grateful for the help Santa Maria has given her over the years. Her goal is to obtain her Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. She dreams of building her credit score up enough to own her own home in a few years. She wants to “learn to live a peaceful life and not overthink things or second guess my opportunities because of my depression and anxiety.”
With the help of Santa Maria, Kíara was able to obtain her HSE, choose a career path, and take charge of her credit and finances in hopes of owning her own home in the future. To the donors who support Santa Maria, Kíara says, “You may not think that your donations are making much of a difference, but they make a big difference to those families who aren’t able to get the things they need for their family on their own.” Just the smallest amount of help can change a person’s whole life, she says. “Continue to help those families so that they can get to where they need to be in life without having to struggle or give up without knowing that they have better options.”
To donate to help other families like Kíara’s, please click here.