I was a single mom with two babies under age 1. This is a struggle in itself, and I had a past that was pulling me in the wrong direction.

I am a survivor of child sexual, physical and emotional abuse. My mom spent several years in prison for selling cocaine and for having firearms. Despite this, I loved my mom and was devastated when she left one day and didn’t come back for three years. I was 12 at the time, so I had to help my grandmother raise my sisters and brother.

It wasn’t uncommon that I looked for love in the wrong places, finding myself with two kids and no parenting skills or family support. I was overjoyed to hear of a program that would help me become a better parent. I became involved in the Healthy Families program, a home-visitation program supported by the Child Abuse Prevention Fund at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. These programs work.

Healthy Families taught me how to set goals. The program taught me how to discipline my children in a positive way. I learned what behaviors to expect from my kids at different ages. My support worker, Shirley Wehmeier, was my mentor and coach. She taught me I could do anything.

I got my High School Equivalency Diploma and went to college for a year. I got my driver’s license, a car and a job in an office.

My family is a product of the Healthy Families program. My kids excel at school and are involved in sports and activities. I provide free credit and budget counseling services to people through La Casa de Esperanza and United Way of Waukesha County. I am a bilingual certified tax preparer, a certified notary and a certified housing specialist, doing pre- and post-purchase counseling for first-time home buyers and foreclosure prevention counseling. I also volunteer my time to help build a stronger community. Most importantly, I was able to break the cycle of abuse and my children are happy and healthy.

The Safe at Home campaign raises money to support home visitation programs like Healthy Families. Help families like mine. Visit safe-at-home.org.

~ Gina M. Sanchez

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