Seeking Success Through Sunshine

Originally written for Children First’s 2021 Annual Report

A girl swinging on a swing at the playground and giving the peace sign
Children with their arms reaching out to feel the rain pouring down

Tanea Howard is a proud mother to five beautiful and loving children. As a devoted parent, she strives to provide the best knowledge, resources, and skills possible for her children to ensure their healthy growth.

Her journey with Children First began when Tanea was a student at Riverview High School. While she never imagined herself facing the overwhelming obstacle of starting a family so young, Tanea found the support she needed through Children First and its partnership with the Teen Parent Program. She worked diligently to earn her diploma while her daughter Ta’Nylah and son Rayshaud, now 10 and 9 years old respectively, received high-quality care and education.

Now 27, Tanea works as both a dental assistant and cosmetologist. She dreams of one day owning her own salon and is in the process of starting her business. Tanea also has the goal to become a homeowner and achieve a level of stability her family has never experienced. She continues to further her education through Children First’s award-winning Families First Institute, taking courses in budgeting, cooking, and career readiness.

After more than a decade, Children First remains a steady presence in the lives of Tanea and her family. Her middle son, Raylan, graduated from the Head Start program in May of 2020 and is now a happy, thriving first grader. She credits his teachers, Miss Maria and Miss Dahlia, for his smooth transition to “the big school.”

Daughter Ma’Kenzie, age 4, is enjoying her first year of the Head Start curriculum, having attended Children First since infancy. After doctors discovered that her youngest child, two-year-old Bryson, had a neonatal stroke during pregnancy, Children First worked quickly to connect Tanea with critical resources for occupational, physical, speech, and feeding therapy. Today, baby Bryson is flourishing in the Early Head Start program and loves coming to school every day.

Tanea considers her Family Advocate, Bailee, to be a huge part of her support system. Over the years, Bailee has helped Tanea go back to school, secure the necessary referrals for Bryson’s therapies, and even attended her oldest son’s football games to cheer him on.

Through her resiliency and support from both her loved ones, as well as the expert staff at Children First, Tanea and her family have found their path to a future brighter than ever before.

"I’ve had the privilege of working with Tanea and her family for almost 6 years and have watched them grow, sometimes fall, and get right back up again. Tanea has become her children’s biggest advocate and continues to make strides in her engagement, as well as involvement in their education, health, and well-being,” says Bailee Brandt, Family Advocate. “She is a great example of how a young single mom whole-heartedly surpasses the challenges thrown her way and does so with tremendous strength and willpower. Tanea and her kids will always hold a special place in my heart, and I am so proud of each and every one of them."