The Making of a Super Mom

Originally written for Children First’s 2020 Annual Report

A toddler sucking his thumb
A boy in a black and red striped shirt playing in the playground

Heather McDonough’s story is her own to write. Although her path in life has been rockier than she ever expected, she credits the birth of her son, Bentley, for changing their lives for the better. The two are building a future for themselves at Our Mother’s House, a safe and secure environment for women and their children experiencing the effects of homelessness. With her son receiving the highest-quality care and early childhood education from loving Children First staff, Heather is able to strive for self-sufficiency with guidance from her Family Advocate, Kim.

“Heather is one of the most improved parents I have had the pleasure to work alongside in my time with Children First! In the span of just one year, she was able to not only obtain her GED, but get her license and purchase a car. She’s also started her Associate Degree with State College of Florida! She has made wonderful changes in how she handles tough situations, and she’s doing all she can to make sure Bentley receives the love and care he needs to grow,” says Kim.

Although Heather’s family encouraged education and her mother was a college graduate, she never thought that path would be a possibility until she became a mother herself. “My grandmother had my mom very young and was never able to go back to school, but she was always trying to motivate us to go farther than we thought we ever could. When I had Bentley, that was all the motivation that I needed to start making positive changes.”

When the pandemic hit and she lost both jobs that she had been working at once to make ends meet, Heather was able to focus on her education. Her Family Advocate connected her to crucial resources, utilizing aide from Children First and the agency’s many community partners to support and stabilize the single mother and her young son.

After transforming her bedroom into a classroom and studying hard for months, Heather was able to earn both her GED and driver’s license. One of her proudest moments was saving enough money to purchase her first car, “Blue Beauty.” This milestone meant the pair would never have to walk to the store again, braving elements of heat and weather for the basic necessities to survive.

Bentley is now a happy, thriving two-year-old with “doowop” hair and a love for all water activities. Although he has recently been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Heather is working with Children First’s comprehensive services staff to secure the proper therapies and support he will need to continue his path to healthy development.

Heather is currently pursuing her Associate Degree at SCF with the dream to open her own medical detoxification facility for women. If there’s anything she wishes she could share, it’s to be persistent and never give up.

"Moms are a different kind of superhero – you look in your kid’s eyes and know you’ve got to do this for them. Then, one day, you make it past the point that you ever believed was possible. I think it’s beautiful to look back at where I used to be and look ahead to the future. I’ve accomplished great things, but I couldn’t do it alone."