Ana and her family first came to Southside in 2014, when Ana’s youngest child was two years old and Alex was four. Although she clearly cared deeply for her four children, Ana struggled with keeping up with their regular dental health care needs. Her difficulty following through was in part due to suspicion and fear, brought about by misinformation and a mistrust of health care providers in her own childhood. Knowing other families at Southside were similarly struggling and the importance of dental hygiene to child’s literacy outcomes, Southside organized a collaborative Family Day with a local organization that specialized in advocacy for children’s dental health. Parents attended a presentation and asked questions, including Ana. During the next home visit, Ana told the Home Visitor that she was interested in making a dental appointment for Alex, who was experiencing dental pain. The two made an appointment together and her SSFNC Home Visitor agreed to accompany Ana and Alex on what would be the first of many dental visits.
What followed was the steady accumulation of knowledge related to the short and long-term benefits of dental interventions, child nutrition, nutritious meals and snacks, good oral hygiene, and the adoption new self-care behaviors. At school, Southside teachers immediately saw a difference in Alex’s performance. His speech improved immensely, he could concentrate, and he started smiling more and interacting more with the other children in the classroom. Before, he had been reluctant to smile or even speak. As he gained greater self-confidence, Alex took a greater leadership role in the classroom. When Alex left for kindergarten in August of 2016, he left with a smile and a new level of confidence to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.