CINCINNATI (July 20, 2023) — Adrienne Hines wanted her voice to be heard. So, there she was one day last March, standing before a state senator in the Ohio Statehouse, speaking about an issue of vital importance to her and many others across the state: the need for increased access to affordable, quality child care.
“I just felt worthy, because I was among so many important people,” said Adrienne, the mother of a 3-year-old boy. “Coming from my background, it felt very validating for me, like I was part of something meaningful.”
She was part of Big Voices for Little Kids Advocacy Day, a joint effort of United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Groundwork Ohio.
United Way organized the bus ride that brought Adrienne and others to Columbus. For her, it was another milestone in an already arduous journey.
When her son was born, fear and paranoia overwhelmed Adrienne. She was convinced someone would take her baby from her.
“I was very nervous, and just didn’t feel worthy of having a child because of my past. There were times I just didn’t want to live anymore.”
Fortunately, she had enrolled in a program co-founded and funded by United Way of Greater Cincinnati. The program sends professional home visitors to work with pregnant women and new mothers. The goals: improve maternal and child health, develop parenting skills, create nurturing home environments and connect families with other community resources.
After a mental health screening by her home visitor, Adrienne was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. Being enrolled in the program allowed her to bypass a long waiting list and begin therapy within a week.
“It definitely saved my life,” Adrienne said.
Adrienne, 32, has faced other challenges. She grew up in a chaotic, dysfunctional home environment punctuated by frequent moves. She calls it “a lost childhood.” By the time she graduated from high school, she had attended eight schools.
Research indicates that people who experience childhood trauma are at higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol and drugs. Adrienne’s drug use began in college. “The way I grew up as a child, the things I’ve witnessed and had to deal with – I pretty much locked it all in and never felt it. Drugs were the way for me to escape all that.”
Unable to keep up with schoolwork, she dropped out just a couple of classes short of earning a college degree.
She battled addiction for years. Her longtime boyfriend – they’ve been together since 2005 – stuck by her through at least a half dozen cycles of rehab and relapse.
She has been clean since Feb. 20, 2018.
About two years into sobriety, she and her boyfriend learned she was pregnant. While receiving prenatal care, she was told about the home visiting program.
“It was such a blessing for me and my family,” Adrienne said. “It taught me all the basics of parenting and helped me be a much better mom. I learned how to deal with (my son’s) temper tantrums. The home visitor brought activities and taught me things to do with my son. He learned so much; his personality shined.”
Adrienne, who is a waitress, and her boyfriend share child care duties by working different shifts. Adrienne received an offer for a better-paying job with benefits, but she turned it down because they could not afford the cost of child care. Her application for child care vouchers was denied because her income exceeds the guidelines by $17.
Adrienne told her story during Advocacy Day at the Ohio Statehouse.
“There was a point,” she said, “where I never would have thought I would be standing in a senator’s office talking about the need to increase the poverty limit so people can get benefits.”
What once seemed unlikely now seems possible. “I just keep trying for bigger and better things,” she said. “We’ve been saving for a house. And I would like to enroll in college and finish a degree.” She is drawn to the social social services field.
“I don’t want my struggles to be for nothing. With my background, I think I could help other families. I want to find a way to use all my experiences for good.”
United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.