Social Connectedness: Believe in Me with Diana Maya and Jessika Harlston

Overloaded: Understanding Neglect

Jan 24 2024 • 1 hr 33 mins

Host: Luke Waldo


  • Diana Maya
  • Jessika Harlston
  • Ayesha Teague
  • Amy Baldus
  • Micaela Conlon-Bue

00-:47 – Diana Maya - “Si hay una persona alli fuera que se siente sola, que siente que ya no tiene fuerzas, busquen ayuda.”

Jessika Harlston – “But having her as that outsider looking in was what I really needed to see the most. And she guided me in every way shape or form to mold me into the woman that I am today. I had the mentality to do it. I just, I needed someone from the outside to kind of help me see from what everybody else was seeing.”

:55-6:32 – Luke Waldo – Opening and Welcome

6:33-7:04 – Luke – Diana, what was happening in your life and your family’s life that led you to seek support from Amy and Children’s Wisconsin?

7:05-8:23 – Diana – Last year was difficult as I struggled with depression. My mental health crisis affected my three children, especially my oldest son who had suicidal thoughts. I struggled with energy, which impacted my ability to work. I asked for help and started medication, but it made me more tired. So I came to Children’s to ask for help for me and my family, and that’s how I started working with Amy. I feel fortunate to have met her and started the program.

8:24-10:04 - Luke – Luke translates into English what Diana shared. What was happening in your life that caused your depression?

10:05-12:02 – Diana – It started many years ago when I lived in Texas. I struggled with post-partum depression after the birth of my daughter. Three years ago, I decided to move to Stevens Point in Wisconsin, a small town where I didn’t know anyone. I packed up my car with my three suitcases and children, and drove here to start fresh. Then I had a surgery and spent three days alone in the hospital, and I fell apart. I had no support, and something broke in that moment.

12:03-14:08 - Luke – Luke translates into English what Diana shared. What was missing in your life that could have changed your life for the better?

14:09-19:36 - Diana – Ever since I was young, I have experienced abandonment. I never met my father. When I was very young, my mother met another man who she chose over me, and I went to live with my grandmother. When I was 12, my mother asked my grandmother to have me back, but only to clean her house and take care of my younger sister. I started to use drugs to cope. When I was 15, my mother moved to Texas and left me behind. I had to find my way on my own. At 17, I got pregnant with my oldest son, and I met my first and only love. At 24, I was five months pregnant with my second son when the father of my child died in a car accident. 6 years later I had my daughter. I have worked really hard to be a perfect mother because I hold so much resentment towards my mother. What was missing in my life? The care of my parents, a proper education as I was educated in the streets. That led to becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. But I changed for my children. “Me hubiera gustado muchisimo un abrazo, la proteccion de una madre.” My mother suffered a lot as her partner was abusive. I didn’t understand her back then, but I understand now that she suffered too. I have forgiven her. I wish it had been different, but all of this made me a strong woman.

19:37-22:48 - Luke – Luke translates into English what Diana shared.

22:49-23:12– Luke – Welcome, Jessika. What was happening in your life that overloaded you and your family with stress and led to child welfare involvement?

23:13-28:25 – Jessika – Jessika became isolated from her family and support network due to an abusive relationship with her husband. She eventually left after 5 years, and took her 3 children to her mother’s house. After leaving for work, her mother called her to let her know that she took her baby to the hospital. She was asked to come in to the hospital as they found her baby to be malnourished. Child welfare got involved, and she was charged with neglect.

28:26-29:44 - Luke – Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jessika. What was missing that you needed that would have helped you overcome the challenges that you were facing?

29:45-32:29 - Jessika – She needed parenting and coping support as the stress of the abusive relationship would translate to her reactions to her children. She learned childhood development that allowed her to better understand what was “normal” behavior, and then how she could control her responses to those behaviors. This also allowed her to care for her children in a way that would help them grow into healthy young men.

32:30-34:18 - Luke – We all need people in our lives to support us when we parent. How did isolation impact your ability to parent your children and take care of yourself?

34:19-38:46 - Jessika – The isolation led to tension with her family with whom she had previously been so close. She started to lose a sense of herself as her family and community used to be such a big part of her identity. Nobody knew who I was anymore. My family made sure that my boys were good even when I wasn’t good. They brought back my light.

38:47-39:14 - Luke – Ayesha, what did you see in Jessika when you first met her and her kids?

39:15-40:33 - Ayesha Teague – She was a lost soul. She was trying to find her breakthrough, but she had been through a lot and was confused. There was a light in there, but the darkness was heavy.

40:34-40:48 - Luke – How did you and Jessika start pulling the darkness back?

40:49-43:37 - Ayesha – We started by being honest about what happened, so that she understood what her children had experienced and what impacts there could be if things don’t change. She then wanted to know who she was deep down inside beyond the child welfare report. Starting with her childhood, she was able to discover that she had been isolated from a family that she used to be so close to. Now, where do we go from here?

43:38-44:11 - Luke – Amy, what did Diana need when she first came to you and Children’s for support?

44:12-45:25 - Amy Baldus – When I first met Diana, she didn’t believe in or love herself. She wanted to change that. I’ve noticed that change over the past six months that I’ve known her.

45:26-45:40 - Luke – Amy, can you tell us about your role and the services that you have provided to Diana?

45:41-47:10 - Amy Baldus – We use Mobility Mentoring as a goal-setting and self-sufficiency tool. We use the Bridge assessment, which helps the participant and I assess where she is at in different core areas of her and her family’s life. I like to use the assessment to highlight the strengths of the parent as they haven’t always thought that they have them. I’ve learned that change happens when parents feel good about themselves and their strengths.

47:11-49:54 - Ayesha – Mobility Mentoring is a professional practice that empowers families to achieve family stability. It uses a Bridge tool that focuses on 5 core areas that include Health and Well-being, Financial Stability, etc. that allows the participant to assess where they are at in those areas. It then includes partnering and coaching with the participant to set goals and action steps, and celebrate those goals when they are achieved.

49:55-50:41 - Luke – Mobility Mentoring often surprises participants as they don’t expect to find strengths when they are seeking help. What did you learn about Diana in those early instances with the assessment?

50:42-51:31 - Amy – I noticed that she was lower on the social supports pillar. She also had some health and financial issues that she wanted to address. Her family pillar was assessed really high as most important. She was very motivated.

51:32-51:45 - Luke - What surprised Diana when she started working with you and Mobility Mentoring?

51:46-52:36 - Amy – The connection we had was a surprise. We built a trusting relationship first, which has been really important to our relationship. She has been open with me.

52:37-52:58 - Luke – What goals did Diana set that have led to the transformation in her life and her family’s life?

52:59-54:31 - Amy – Diana wanted to accomplish a lot. She wanted to improve her education and employment. She started an ESL class to improve her reading and writing of English. She wanted to improve her health, so she got a membership to a health club. She started exercising, which led to her being able to stop taking some medication. That led to better sleep and relationships with her family.

54:32-55:04 – Luke – Diana, how has your relationship with Amy and the use of Mobility Mentoring helped you achieve your goals?

55:05-58:22 - Diana – It was difficult at first because I was really struggling with my depression and my communication with my oldest son who felt I didn’t care about him, which led to his own mental health struggles. When I first met Amy I cried a lot as I felt I failed my son and I felt that he hated me. But Amy supported me and told me that I was a good mother. She helped me realize that I have given comfort to my son in a way that I never experienced as a child. He’s not slept on the street, experienced abandonment. He has comfort at home with a Playstation. Through therapy and Amy’s support, I started to believe in myself. Amy not only believed in me, she also held me accountable. I will forever be grateful to her for believing in me.

58:23-1:01:29 - Luke – Luke translates into English what Diana shared.

1:01:30-1:02:16 - Luke – How did Mobility Mentoring and your partnership with Ayesha help you overcome your challenges?

1:02:17-1:04:18 - Jessika – Having stability, stable employment, my own place, and a divorce to begin my life with my children.

1:04:19-1:04:33 – Luke – How were you able to achieve these goals?

1:04:34-1:05:48 - Jessika – Ayesha pushed me to be my best version, towards my goals. She held me accountable while also reminding me that I’m more than the worst moment in my life. I may not be the best mom, but I’m going to be the best mom for my boys.

1:05:49-1:06:23 - Luke – Ayesha, what have you learned from the use of Mobility Mentoring?

1:06:24-1:09:34 - Ayesha – The Bridge assessment allows me to see where participants see themselves. Aside from safety concerns, most participants come in with employment, housing, childcare challenges. It serves as a powerful tool to help focus on where there are opportunities to grow. It also serves as a reminder that if one pillar of the bridge is weak, everything else can feel unstable.

1:09:35-1:10:26 - Luke – Micaela, what do our programs at Children’s offer to families who feel socially isolated? What can we do better to support families’ social connectedness?

1:10:27-1:11:50- Micaela Conlon-Bue – Working in the Western part of Wisconsin, many families experience the “tri-lemma” of housing, transportation and childcare insecurity that creates challenges for families, particularly when it comes to social isolation. With our suite of services from Family Resource Centers, Mobility Mentoring, and Home Visiting, we can offer solutions and support to families who are overloaded by this “tri-lemma”.

1:11:51-1:12:56 - Luke – Amy, as I see the emotion you are experiencing as you listen to this, can you share what your relationship with Diana means to you?

1:12:57-1:14:12 - Amy – It’s amazing to see how much Diana has accomplished and how she has changed to believe in herself in such a short period of time. We don’t always get to see such big change as our program is short-term – 4-6 months – so she will always be special to me as she let me be part of her journey.

1:14:13-1:16:32 – Luke – A single person can be critical in another person’s life and their ability to change. How might we change our mental models, communities and systems so that families like Diana’s don’t experience social isolation and mental health crises in the first place?

1:16:33-1:18:02 - Micaela – I work to incorporate the voice of our community as parents know what they need and what they don’t. Bringing us all together helps us solve problems more effectively.

1:18:03-1:19:04 - Luke – Reflection on Micaela’s point. What ultimately led to the breakthroughs for Jessika?

1:19:05-1:20:48 - Ayesha – Her support system and safety. As soon as she was in her mother’s home a heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders. She was able to reconnect with family and friends, which brought her light back. Mobility Mentoring allowed her to see what was missing, so that she could set goals and achieve them.

1:20:49-1:20:57 – Luke – Jessika, what were your breakthroughs?

1:20:58-1:21:46 - Jessika – Ayesha telling me the truth and being there for me.

1:21:47-1:22:27 - Luke – Thank you, Jessika and Ayesha.

1:22:28-1:23:07 – Luke – Diana, what do you want to share about your relationship with Amy and how it changed your life?

1:23:08-1:26:28 - Diana – I matured and learned to not take everything so seriously. I used to be more motivated by what others believe about me than what I believe about myself. Amy reminded me that life is short, and that I can forgive myself for not loving myself. This helped me forgive my mother after realizing that she was a victim herself. Maybe I was a better mom than my mom, but maybe she was better than her mom. Maybe my mother was a better daughter than I was. She may have sacrificed a lot to keep me safe by sending me to my grandmother’s. She came in October recently, I asked for her forgiveness for not being a better daughter, for not checking in on her. My children will understand someday that I gave them everything I could. I am grateful to Amy because she’s a strong woman. She helped me so much by believing in me.

1:26:29-1:28:05 - Luke – Luke translates into English what Diana shared.

1:28:06-1:28:19 – Amy – Diana, you have always been strong and I’m so proud of you for seeing it.

1:28:20-1:29:04 – Diana – Expresses gratitude. If you are feeling alone or struggling, ask for help. You are not alone. It will be worth it.

1:29:05-1:30:31 – Luke – Luke translates in English what Diana shared. Closing and Gratitude.

1:30:32-1:32:23 - Luke – 3 Key Takeaways

1:32:24-1:33:52 - Luke – Closing and Gratitude

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