Dallas Healthy Start

Dallas Healthy Start brings encouragement, builds confidence in young mom

When teenager Jaquelin Diaz discovered she was pregnant, she was scared and overwhelmed. A good student with dreams of becoming a psychiatrist, Jaquelin was unsure of her future. But, thanks to the Dallas Healthy Start program offered by Parkland, Jaquelin is a young mom learning to juggle school, work, motherhood and dreams.

The Dallas Healthy Start program provides a variety of support and education services in clients’ homes, with a goal of reducing infant deaths, and pre-term and low-weight babies. Caseworkers guide clients to resources, such as helping them find housing, provide practical education and follow the child’s development.

“In addition to the education and resources, we serve as cheerleaders,” said Angela Varnum, bilingual caseworker with Dallas Healthy Start. “We ask ‘Do you want to get a job? Do you want to learn English? Do you want to go to school in the future?’”

Angela began meeting with Jacquelin early in her pregnancy.

“Angela gave me a lot of advice when I was pregnant which was super great because I was really scared at first,” said Jacquelin.

Now Angela meets with Jacquelin in her home, which gives her a chance to see the environment in which Jacquelin is raising her daughter and reduces barriers to care, such as transportation.

“Angela answers all of my questions when she comes to my house, which gives me a lot of relief, and we interact with my little girl to see what she can do,” said Jacquelin.

Angela has been impressed by Jacquelin’s tenacity and spirit as she juggled work, school and motherhood.

“I have had an amazing experience with Jacquelin,” said Angela, “She is a hard worker and has a lot of goals and aspirations for her life, including going to college.”

Clients often share what they learn through Dallas Healthy Start with their friends and families, furthering the reach of this vital program.

“We’re not just impacting that one mom,” said Angela. “We’re impacting everyone in her support system, in her neighborhood and in her community.

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