Celebrating families standing on their own

This year, so many of the celebrations, ceremonies and special events that are part of our daily lives were lost to coronavirus. Staff at the Healthy Families Florida program refused, though, to let some of their families miss out on a special moment.

What usually is a ceremony at Lion Country Safari for families who complete the program was transformed this year into drive-through graduations for about 40 families.

Healthy Families Florida is a free, voluntary program for women and families expecting a baby or who have a newborn and also are experiencing stressful life situations. In Palm Beach County, the program is run by Families First of Palm Beach County and funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.

The program provides a trained support worker who meets with the family to help set goals and create a safe, nurturing environment for the child. It’s about providing families with a solid foundation, working with them for 2 ½ years to five years. 

“It gives them that time to learn what self-sufficiency is,” said Beatriz Rodriguez, the Healthy Families program supervisor. “We’re making sure that they are doing what they need to do for themselves and their family.”

That’s why the graduation is so meaningful. It’s an occasion celebrating the families standing on their own.

So Healthy Families held the drive-through graduations in the parking lot of their offices in West Palm Beach and Belle Glade in August. Family Support Worker Liliana Cano described the scene at the Belle Glade graduation. Twelve of the 25 families graduating were her clients.

“(Staff) all had signs that we made. We were moving them and cheering them on as they rolled their windows down. My clients were happy to see me and I was happy to see them.

“We gave them the certificate that they had completed the program and a basket of goodies. In it were masks, hand sanitizer, stuff they need for COVID and there were a lot of clothes for toddlers and school-aged children too. Each family got a gift card too.

“We had to keep our distance and that was emotional. It was a different experience. We couldn’t do what we’re used to do when we see them in person.

“Overall, I felt good because I could see them and that they felt good about themselves that they completed the program. I know that they left happy knowing that they are doing much better with all the tools that we shared with them. We do a lot of things with them like goal plans. When we talked, they told me they kept it going, moving forward.

“The program is something good. It’s changing their lives for the better— the way they engage with their children. It’s really helping. I’m happy we’re able to support our mommies and give them the tools they need to become successful mommies.”

About Healthy, Safe, Strong Stories

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County continues to serve local children and families with the same mission that’s motivated us since 1986: to keep our county’s children healthy, safe and strong. This #HealthySafeStrong series highlights the vital work our providers are doing, and reminds Palm Beach County families that Children’s Services Council is here for you. To contact Children’s Services Council, please click here.