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True prevention means stopping something before it begins

Rachel is a lot like other 5-year-olds: She’s energetic, likes playing on the playground, exploring gardens and picking flowers.

That wasn’t the case a couple of years ago. As a 3-year-old, the mobile trailer where Rachel lived was small, dark, cold and dirty. She slept on an old crib mattress on the floor. Every morning she got up quickly when she heard her brothers’ voices, knowing if she waited too long there would be no Cheerios for her. She was not yet potty trained, hid her accidents and sat in wet pants all day. The only time she cried was when she was scolded or spanked.

It’s amazing what one phone call can do.

Rachel comes to Family Tree

Rachel’s mother, who is disabled, called Family Tree and asked for help. Now Rachel rides a school bus to class two mornings a week and begins the day with a healthy snack.

Rachel’s favorite part of the day at Family Tree is outdoor playtime. Before coming to Family Tree, she had never been on a playground, never even had others to play with.

Like all the other children in the classroom, Rachel has specific goals she is working on. One is learning to use the potty. Through Family Tree’s parenting classes, her mother is also learning to encourage Rachel and be patient. Rachel’s Family Tree teacher visits Rachel’s trailer once a month. The teacher arrives with extra diapers and wipes. Having more than just one diaper a day for Rachel has really helped Rachel’s mother. And as the stress has subsided, Rachel’s inclination to use the potty has increased.

As time goes on, Rachel continues to grow. One day as she was running through the gardens and under the trees, she found a flower and asked to take it home to her mother. Rachel’s teacher gently wrapped the flower in a wet paper towel. Rachel could not contain her joy as she clutched the tiny flower meant for her mother.

The teacher driving the bus knew Rachel’s family well. She had seen changes in Rachel’s mother, who recently had been making an effort to wait for Rachel at their stop, rather than sending her older brother. As Rachel jumped from the bus, the teacher held her breath as she watched the moment unfold.

"Mommy, look what I brought you," said Rachel, placing the flower in her mother’s lap.

"It is beautiful," said Rachel’s mother, looking up at the teacher behind the wheel of the bus and giving a rare smile. "Just like you."


Rachel’s story isn’t unusual. In Linn County there are 6,789 children who are considered to be At-Risk.