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Annette Hines: “Circle of Care”

The support for local businesses and local organizations has flourished and communities have come together to support one another and prop each other up, helping the elderly and the local grocer, the local café, the dry cleaner and more. Finally, disability and health care issues — especially issues of disparity — are taking center stage, so we can finally start […]

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The support for local businesses and local organizations has flourished and communities have come together to support one another and prop each other up, helping the elderly and the local grocer, the local café, the dry cleaner and more.

Finally, disability and health care issues — especially issues of disparity — are taking center stage, so we can finally start addressing them. This is exciting! I’ve been waiting 25 years for this change, as have my colleagues.


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette Hines. She has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law and Estate Planning for over twenty years. She received her JD from Howard University School of Law, her MBA from Suffolk University and her BA from the University of Vermont. Her clients include individuals and families of children with special needs, the elderly and others in the community.

Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice, as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to the practice.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in extreme poverty, but I knew that education was my way out. I went to Howard University Law School which is a historically black university, known for its work in the civil rights arena. I wanted to study civil rights law and focused on criminal defense and issues related to women and children. Then, I got married and had a baby right out of law school, but my first born was a 29-week, 2 pound preemie. Everything went haywire from there! From the moment she was born, she was my inspiration to be a disability attorney and advocate.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

I started my Law Group out of necessity in 2012 after many failed attempts to work in other firms. Acting as a single, working parent of two children is incredibly difficult, especially when one of your kids requires around the clock nursing care at ICU levels. Elizabeth was actively dying at the time, in fact she died the next year, but I didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t really a place for me anywhere else, but the thing is, the special needs community, my clients and my referral sources still embraced me and accepted me through it all. The work continued to come in, and I was still able to be me!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I started Special Needs Companies in January 2020 — a project that I had been dreaming about taking on since the beginning of my family’s existence. I just needed capital and energy and brain space to get it going. Along with the onset of this project and COVID-19 came an exciting community of connections that we continue to build across the country online. This network includes our private Facebook group called, “Circle of Care” and our weekly Facebook Live events for these group members.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom and sister were there for me — keeping me from losing my mind — when I needed help as a single mom of two kids. In my career, I had two amazing mentors, Terri Varnet and Barbara Jackins, who were generous and kind to me as I was getting started. Both individuals are special needs moms and lawyers and are fierce advocates for their kids and our community! I explain their impact on my life in my book, “Butterflies and Second Chances,” but I cannot thank them enough for the lessons they taught me.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

COVID-19 has forced me to juggle a lot of tasks professionally and personally. I have been running our law practice, second business, and my home and family as well as caring for my mother who has been very ill. My sister has been a wonderful help and caregiver these past few months as I manage all of these tasks. All the while, I have to ensure that we are responsive to all of our employees and their extra concerns during this trying time.

Our small business is a family too. I can keep myself awake at night with thoughts that I am failing at everything. I took a few days off last week to recharge because even though work is piling up, I really needed an opportunity to rest. I think that women tend to have more doubts as leaders, so I cannot recommend downtime to female business leaders enough!

Since my husband and I run our business together, one of our biggest challenges is not allowing work to consume our family life. Moving our work to our home really exacerbated this.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

It is not easy, but in regards to the work-life balance, my husband and I force ourselves to stop talking about business, leave the office at a certain time, and take a walk outside with the dog. While there are a number of other things that help, these practices have become our routine.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

The biggest challenge for me has been keeping the lines of communication open with my staff. With everyone scattered, sometimes in many different locations, it is easy to feel disconnected, so we work hard to remain focused on our teamwork.

Also, I think our staff, like most people, are watching what is happening in our country right now, and they are scared of losing their job, their family’s health, the political climate and their safety and well-being. A lot of these fears ride on the decisions we are making as a team but also the decisions I am making as a leader. In a small organization, I am not a nameless, faceless person — I’m Annette, their boss, and the owner. We know each other’s family stories, and we worry about what the future could hold. There is a lot of trust between myself, my husband and our staff, and a lot is riding on the decisions I make to keep the business going right now.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Like everybody else, we are using Zoom and keeping our schedules flexible. Although most of us are back in the office most of the time now, we are continuing to rotate schedules to stay safe. We have meetings more frequently and try to be as open as we can about the concerns we have, but so much is still unknown. Our team is taking this situation day by day.

Also, I listen to a great podcast about confidence from Heather Monahan. I just love her! It’s the time I take for me and the boost I need to keep going and keep leading well.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Here are my three tips plus a bonus:

  1. If you must stay home and homeschool or continue distance learning with your kids, then you need to pull together a trusted team to support you. You should look for one or two people willing to be quarantined with your family to give you respite so you can work like a grandparent, aunt or even paid caregiver.
  2. Most state agencies for kids with special needs have extra money right now, but you need to ask for it. If you are overwhelmed, maybe a friend who cannot help you in person can safely make those calls for you from their home. The money can help you get the extra care you need to make it through this time.
  3. There are a lot of Federal and State protections for working parents who are facing challenges due to COVID-19. You can check out available legal remedies if you need a temporary leave of absence due to your circumstances.

Bonus: Stop striving for perfection, and cut yourself a break! It’s ok to do what you can for now.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

It’s back to the basics for us: chore charts and board games! You have to get off social media and the news sometimes. My 19-year old and I were actually getting sick from the anxiety of the 24/7 news feed, so we had to start scheduling a time when we would check the news to see what was going on with the world. We quickly learned that we didn’t miss much in between!

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. I’m hearing great stories from the disability community about parents who are finally getting trained by teachers and therapists to work with their children. They are seeing great progress, and their children are making progress at home in a small one-to-one environment.
  2. In the adult disability community, many individuals are also experiencing peace and calm in a much quieter environment during the day rather than their typical noisy day program.
  3. Families are spending much more time together, having family dinner every night, watching television and movies, playing games and spending time in the local community every day.
  4. The support for local businesses and local organizations has flourished and communities have come together to support one another and prop each other up, helping the elderly and the local grocer, the local café, the dry cleaner and more.
  5. Finally, disability and health care issues — especially issues of disparity — are taking center stage, so we can finally start addressing them. This is exciting! I’ve been waiting 25 years for this change, as have my colleagues.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

As mentioned above, I recommend taking small and scheduled doses of social media and the news. You’ve got to turn off the constant flow of information and be thoughtful about where your news is coming from.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Sometimes, you have to love yourself through all the pain. And that’s hard. Why is it so difficult to love ourselves? When I was raising Elizabeth and Caroline, but particularly with Elizabeth, I was tortured with guilt over every decision I made and second guessed every thing I did. Even now, I still wonder if I did the right thing for this treatment or that surgery or if I have given my kids a “good enough” life. I ask myself if I am a good person, a good boss and a good mother.

When I hit 50, I finally started to let go. This process began six years ago when Elizabeth died. I went through a metamorphosis, which is why I called my book “Butterflies and Second Chances.” After Elizabeth passed, I got a second chance at life — to honor her and our life together as a family. I love myself now through all these imperfections, and I am learning to live with the pain and the mistakes. Through this time, I have discovered that the beauty and the joy I’ve found are bursting at the seams!

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: https://specialneedscompanies.com/

Social Media:

Twitter: @SpecialNeedsCo

Personal Twitter: @AnnetteHines15

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annette-hines-57686a8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpecialNeedsCompanies/

Facebook Group, “Circle of Care”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/914839259016733

Podcast: https://specialneedscompanies.com/podcasts/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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