Finding support for her family through Healthy Families Orange: Danielle's story
Written by Cathleen Raffety
Two weeks prior to giving birth to her first child, Danielle learned that her baby suffered from a congenital disorder, called "sacral agenesis," which involves abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. As devastating as this news was, Danielle knew that she would love her child unconditionally, regardless of any challenges he might face. When James “JB” Bruce was born, his condition was even worse than originally thought, and Danielle was told that her son would never be able to walk, talk, eat, or think for himself.
On the day JB was born, a family assessment worker from Healthy Families Orange visited Danielle in the hospital. She explained the program, and Danielle was eager to learn more. A nationally accredited home visiting program for expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations, the voluntary program improves childhood outcomes and increases family self-sufficiency by empowering parents through education and community support. Parents learn how to recognize and respond to their babies’ changing developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques, cope with the day-to-day stress of parenting, and set and achieve short- and long-term goals.
When JB left the hospital, many believed his outlook was dim, but Danielle knew he was a fighter. At five months old, he defied all odds by crawling toward his favorite toy, and, within a few short years, he was an energetic and active toddler. JB was given the best chance at success due to the unwavering support of both his mother and the team at Healthy Families Orange. Danielle’s family support worker developed a plan to help her work toward specific goals, such as moving into a safer and larger home for JB. She was connected to several vital resources, including early intervention programs and a pediatrician for JB. Danielle’s family support worker was by her side, helping Danielle learn how to navigate the healthcare system to best meet her son’s needs. Healthy Families Orange also provided Danielle guidance on how to use positive forms of discipline, as well as how to best stimulate JB’s development with various learning toys and activities.
“Healthy Families Orange got me through a lot that I’m not sure I would’ve gotten through if they hadn’t been there to support me,” says Danielle. “It felt like they were my friends and they cared about me.”
In the fall of 2012, Danielle and JB made a life-changing decision for JB to undergo a leg amputation and try prosthetics. JB is now in kindergarten and doing better than ever. In fact, he says, “I’ll never give up. I’m no quitter!”
“JB captures your heart from the moment you meet him,” says Melissa Chisari, child development specialist, Healthy Families Orange. “His strength and determination are incredible. It has been an honor working with both him and Danielle, who is truly a model of success for the resources and support offered through Healthy Families Orange.”