Embraced by ECS

Sandra isabella and issac

Nine years ago, Sandra Huerta was unexpectedly tasked with raising two of her grandchildren. Isabella and Isaac came into Huerta’s life and were, in her words, “a gift from God.” Even so, the situation was not easy. “Basically, it was like starting over 23 years later,” Huerta said. Huerta’s daughter was denied any chance of custody due to her severe mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD). Seeking stability in this new chapter, Huerta turned to her social worker, who recommended ECS Head Start, marking the beginning of a transformative journey for her young grandchildren.

Huerta’s grandchildren attended Head Start for five years; Isabella was a toddler, and Isaac was an infant. “The biggest thing I wanted was trust, my child to be happy, and my child to learn. And I felt all those needs were met,” Huerta said. She described how Head Start helped Isabella and Isaac learn good behavior, develop basic skills, establish a routine, and get excited to attend school.

But life was still not smooth sailing. Huerta and the teachers noticed that Isaac’s development seemed delayed. Head Start evaluated Isaac and recommended the family to ECS Para Las Familias (PLF). Isaac enjoyed therapy, and “I noticed he matured,” Huerta said. “I was able to use the tools that his therapist showed me. With the work and time, he was able to calm down and to share,” Huerta said.

Other children started to question Isabella about her family. They wanted to know why they lived with their grandma, why they had a foster mom, and why they got visits from their biological mom. To address the situation, the children’s therapist created personalized storybooks for Isabella and Isaac. These books included pictures and narratives explaining their living situation and why they could not live with their biological mother, helping them understand their family structure.

Now Isabella understands, and Huerta can speak candidly about it. “Isabella’s not embarrassed; she is very open,” Huerta said. “When her friends introduce me to their mothers, they say, ‘This is Isabella’s grandma. Isabella is adopted.’ They all know.” With the help of PLF, “The children are happy and well-adjusted even though they are not with their bio mom.”

Huerta is committed to ensuring that the guidance from PLF leaves a lasting imprint on Isabella and Isaac, nurturing them into resilient and self-assured adults. As she reflects on the path ahead for her grandchildren, now eight and nine, Huerta continues to give back to the community that supported them, sharing her wisdom as a member of the ECS Behavioral Health Committee following a term on the Board of Directors.


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Esteban Villanueva