“I’m built for this” – Mariah’s Story
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“I feel like he saved my life,” 25-year-old mother Mariah says about her 15-month-old son, Jaymonni. “Having him actually calmed me down from when I was younger. I could have been in a bad situation.”
She stops and thinks, and imagines her life before her son’s birth.
“If I think about my past, I probably could be in jail somewhere or even dead. But Courtney has really helped.”
Courtney is her home visitation counselor through the Parents as Teachers program in Kansas City, Kansas, and an enormous part of Mariah’s life. The two were first introduced in 2019, when Mariah was pregnant with Jaymonni.
“I love Courtney so much. She’s like a close friend that I wish I could have known as a best friend growing up,” Mariah says. “She has helped me with so many resources. She knew I was a single mother and what it would be like for me. Her visits were beneficial. They still are.”
The beginning of motherhood wasn’t easy for Mariah. Her relationship with Jaymonni’s father was tenuous, and although they’re working on it now, he left Mariah to raise the young baby on her own.
“If not for the program, I would have been at my mama’s house saying, ‘I need help with this baby!’” Mariah says. “But now I know I’m built for this. It’s good to have resources and to talk with someone about how hard it is, but we can take care of our children by ourselves.”
She accepted the help she could find from other local United Way partners like HappyBottoms for diapers, and from Parents as Teachers with early childhood development. Promise 1000 connects this region’s low-income families to supports that optimize the beginning years of life for young children prenatal to three years old – the first 1,000 days of life. Promise 1000 includes home visiting provider agencies like Parents as Teachers through a collective impact system.
“I really didn’t think too much about reading to a little baby or things like that, but Courtney gives me activities to do with him during bonding time,” she says, lighting up in a smile with what she says next. “Now he’s opening and closing books. I read to him, and he doesn’t touch it until I’m done—that means he’s listening!”
Mariah works in customer support and is studying Business Management and Administration. She said her desire and natural ability to care for other people is something she inherited from her mom. And she’s ready to use her voice to encourage more donations in support of home visitation programs—as well as participation for other new mothers in these critical programs.
“It’s the best program ever, to me,” she says. “I have sympathy for all the other moms going through this all. I was going to give up but something told me to stay, and I’m glad I did.”
* For more information about home visitation programs supported by United Way of Greater Kansas City, visit Promise1000.org.