From voluntary home visiting to Best Start, tot parks to community gardens, the stories below reveal how First 5 LA makes a difference in the lives of Los Angeles County moms. Not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.
Welcome Baby/Voluntary Home Visiting
Faced with a thyroid problem that caused her pregnancy to be diagnosed as high-risk, and fearful of delivering early and the possibility of a cesarean section, the young Antelope Valley woman enrolled in First 5 LA’s Welcome Baby program
Through Welcome Baby, provided at no cost to eligible mothers at hospitals in the 14 Best Start communities, the young woman became proactive, seeking education on her situation with her personal parent coach provided by the program. Upon learning from the parent coach about the benefits of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, the young woman requested and received skin-to-skin contact directly after birth with her baby, who quickly began breastfeeding. The young woman was amazed at how this advice from the parent coach helped her bond with her baby.
Inspired by future home visits from the parent coach who offered more advice and information on local resources (including food banks, community classes and financial assistance), the young woman started a support group of other mothers in her apartment building. Far from being afraid anymore, this young mother felt empowered to help herself and other moms with the newfound knowledge of resources learned through her Welcome Baby parent coach.
"Make sure you care for your son because the relationship between a mother and a son is really important. Make sure you are his first love. Make sure he knows how to treat a lady.” - Cierra Evans
Tot Parks and Trails
Martha Martinez not only discovered a new place in Pacoima for her daughter to play, she helped design it.
Working with Shane’s Inspiration – grantee in First 5 LA’s Tot Parks and Trails program – Martinez had her autistic daughter, Jacqueline, in mind when she offered advice on how to make the new tot playground at Ritchie Valens park user-friendly for developmentally-challenged children. When the park was unveiled in the summer of 2013, much of the playground equipment featured a subtle design for children with special needs: a “jukebox” for sensory play, a spacewalk climber for hand and feet coordination, and a boppity bridge for balancing skills.
Today, Martinez takes 8-year-old Jacqueline weekly to the park, where they both benefit.
“It helps her be more independent and improve herself physically,” Martinez said of her daughter. “I gain knowledge and experience in interacting with other parents who have children with similar disabilities.”
As the mother of one son, 5-month-old Ayden, Cierra Evans was not sure what to expect when she attended her first Best Start Compton-East Compton Parents’ Café, which provided information on resources and services available to parents and families in the community.
“The first day we did that they made me be one of the speakers and I ended up being the one doing the listening,” Evans recalled with a laugh. “All these mothers said that their sons were in gangs and if they had all these services it would have been better for their sons.”
Through this meeting, and others held by Best Start, Evans learned about the resources in her community, including the local YMCA. More importantly, she learned about the importance of being active in her community, for herself and her son’s sake. Even at 5 months of age, Evans brings her son to the Best Start meetings whenever she can.
“It’s important to have them be involved in the community so they can learn how to be a part of the community,” Evans said.
As Ayden grows older, Evans said she will share another important lesson she learned from the mothers of Best Start.
“A lot of times, with sons, especially in the African American culture, they say to guys, ‘You can’t cry,’” Evans explained. “One of the mothers, she was saying to make sure, as a mother, you comfort your child and let your son know it’s okay to cry. They don’t have to be so strong. They can be vulnerable. Make sure you care for your son because the relationship between a mother and a son is really important. Make sure you are his first love. Make sure he knows how to treat a lady.”
As a mother of four, Sia’Kendah Hobdy always tried to select the best fruit and vegetables for her family to eat. Yet when she shopped at her local Los Angeles supermarkets, she always seemed to get stuck with fruits and vegetables that were either frozen, tasteless or under-ripened.
So, she decided to start shopping at her local Adams and Vermont Farmers Market on Wednesdays for fruit and vegetables. Although the fruit and vegetables were fresher and tastier, she realized she could only afford the most basic vegetables and fruit per week. Then she heard about the First 5 LA Market Match voucher program. Under the program, if an eligible customer with a child under age 5 spends $10 of their allotted CalFresh or WIC benefit, they are given an extra $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables.
“Because of this program, I am now able to afford more than the basic fruit and vegetables each week for my family,” Hobdy said. “I also can get a variety of important dark, leafy greens and beets that helps with our vitamin, iron and mineral intake. Market Match program helps encourage my family and me to come out and shop for our fresh fruit and vegetables at our local farmers market. We also enjoy and appreciate all the farmers who grow them.”
As a registered dietician, Christina Sainato is familiar with nutrition. And thanks to First 5 LA’s investment in the Villa Parke Rooftop Garden in Pasadena, her children are catching up with her fast.
As a “farmer” using one of the 30 raised-bed garden plots, Sainato and her children Evelyn, 18 months, and Decklin, 6, are growing their own bounty for the dinner table. And the cooking classes offered at the lower-level community center have opened her eyes to new ways of growing food.
“I have learned to be more flexible with different flavors and ingredients, limiting myself to what is being grown in the garden,” Sainato said. “In the nutrition class, Decklin participates by reading labels on food packaging to better understand what he and his family are consuming.”
The most important result is that now both of her children are actually consuming foods they previously refused.
“The children most recently ate radishes right out of the garden plot, and this translated to the home where they ate more radishes, simply because they remembered they were the same vegetable they had helped me harvest,” Sainato said.