MOMS Orange County serves our community through the commitment of many dedicated people working in collaboration with one another to educate and support our clients.    These individuals put into motion the mission of MOMS Orange County through their hands, feet, hearts and minds.  In each Lil’ Bits edition, we will introduce you to one of the many valuable people at MOMS Orange County who bring our mission to life.

Miriam Castellanos has been a part of MOMS Orange County since it’s inception in 1992.  A Maternal-Child Health Coordinator (Home Visitor) working with clients each and every day, Miriam truly understands the needs of families in our community.As frontline staff, MOMS Orange County’s Home Visitors are the eyes, ears and voices of the organization’s mission.  Their knowledge, care and compassion lay the foundation in which a client’s trust is built upon.  Not only does Miriam possess these key qualities, but many of her peers share that she is a positive influence and mentor to those around her, taking the time to listen and advise her peers through her genuine care of and concern for their own learning and well-being.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Mexico and came to Orange County with my family at a young age.  I grew up in Santa Ana and attended Santa Ana High School.   I have two sisters and one brother and have a very close relationship with my family.  My parents have since retired and now live in Mexico.

Right now, I especially enjoy outdoor activities which help me stay healthy and help to invigorate and refresh my mind as well.  I take regular walks and love to go hiking on the weekends.  I love to bake and decorate.  I’m currently taking a Balloon Decorating class.  Yes, you heard right, a “How to Decorate with Balloons” class and I love it!

What initially drew you to MOMS Orange County?

In 1992, I heard about a new community program that was being developed by Dottie Andrews (MOMS Orange County Founder).  At the time, I was familiar with the needs and challenges of the client population but I really wanted to work directly with the community.  I was 22 years old and had recently given birth to my daughter.  Having just gone through my own pregnancy experience, I hoped to be a support to someone else, even if it was just over the phone at that time

[Today, MOMS Orange County provides monthly home visits to its clients from early pregnancy to the child’s first birthday].  At the same time, working with our clients has helped me be a better parent.  Listening to clients talk about challenges with their own family members and parents and trying to help them develop positive habits has been a learning experience for me as well.  Although I am teaching them, they are also teaching me.

What do you feel is your role in our community?

I definitely feel like I have a role in the development of our community.  Every time I speak to a client about breastfeeding and on my next visit with her, she tells me that she shared the same information with her neighbor, now that is a winning moment.  To know that the client not only was receptive to the information but passed it on to those around her is so valuable.  In Spanish, we say, “Que corra la voz”, which is essentially, “spreading the word.”

What was your MOMS Orange County “a-ha” moment?

This may not have been my very first “a-ha” moment because it occurred very recently but it’s an amazing story that reminds me once again what makes this work so meaningful to me.

I was at church one Sunday morning with my family.  After the service, I was approached by someone who looked vaguely familiar and after a few seconds, realized she was a previous client of mine, Isela.  Her eyes were wide with excitement and she embraced me lovingly.  She wrapped her hands around mine and began to tell me her story.  As she spoke, I began remembering my time as her home visitor years ago and it dawned on me why she was looking at me with such warmness and gratitude.

When she first came to MOMS Orange County, Isela was pregnant with her second child.  She was a warm and caring person yet had a low literacy level and was quite isolated from her surrounding community.

During a post-partum visit with Isela and her baby, Tristan (then 4 months old), I went through the Ages & Stages Questionnaire which we administer with the baby at 4 months, 8 months and 12 months to screen for achievements of developmental milestones. During the screening, I rubbed my hands together to monitor the baby’s ability to follow sound and motions.  The baby did not respond.  Little Tristan just sat there, staring at the moving images on the television.  On my next visit, I brought a bell and shook it hoping for a response.  Again, there was nothing.  I immediately referred Isela to the Regional Center for an assessment and a short while later, followed up to make sure she had received treatment for Tristan.  Tristan reached 12 months soon after and my visits with this client ended.

“Do you remember me?” Isela exclaimed, her eyes wide with excitement.

“Isela—of course I remember you!”  Clenching my hands tightly, Isela exclaimed, “Oh Miriam, thank you so much.  You have helped me so much!”  She turned around and beckoned for her son.  A sprite boy about 8 years old bounded over.  It was Tristan, the little baby that I had met 8 years earlier.  Isela turned around and began using sign language to relay the story to Tristan.  Mother and son signed back and forth to each other and Tristan looked up at me with a big smile.  My heart surged with emotion as I watched Isela sign effortlessly with her son.

“Miriam, I just had to let you know how much you have helped me.  Thank you so much”

In that moment, that experience years ago flashed before my eyes and I thought, “My god, I really made a difference in this little boy’s life…8 years later!”  It is precisely these “a-ha” moments that make my work at MOMS Orange County so valuable—educating parents, referring them to available community services and knowing that they have received the help they need.

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