First Responders First//

“I Really Don’t Know What I Would Have Done”

Medical assistant and single mom of three Angel Marino on how Bright Horizons’ #FirstRespondersFirst child care hubs helped her stay employed.

By Angel Marino as told to Lindsey Benoit O’Connell

I work for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit at the main hospital campus. I am a certified medical assistant for the breast oncology department. However when the government shut everything down to stop the spread of COVID-19, a lot of the outpatient departments had to stop scheduling appointments and our team was redeployed to do essential work like testing, screening employees to make sure they don’t have temperatures, and doing nasal swabs for employees who they think may have COVID-19. I’m also a single mom with three kids — Demi is 10, Kora is 6, and my son Kohran is 5.

On Friday, March 13th, I woke up to schools closed due to COVID-19. I had to call off work that day.  Once I realized that my job was asking me to do this essential work, I started panicking because I didn’t have child care. For two weeks I had to stay home using my paid time off to take care of my children. I lost my mother really young and I don’t have a lot of family support, so I depend on school and daycare to be able to work and provide for the kids.

I tried to do the best that I could, keeping them busy. I had them sit at the desk, read books, write, do some of the online learning that the teacher set them up for. But they were asking me, “Mama, don’t you have to go to work?” I told them, “Yeah, but we don’t have a babysitter.” They were trying to help me by offering ideas like, “What about our cousins or this friend down the road?” I had to explain that everyone has to stay in their own houses and it’s not safe to have people over. I told them not to worry, but if I’m honest, I was worried. 

I didn’t want to lose my job. A lot of people in my profession are going to eventually get laid off if they don’t redeploy. There’s a mandatory redeployment for all of the staff that isn’t immune compromised or suffering from COVID-19. If you have it, you don’t have to work. If you’re taking care of a family member or someone who has it, you get some exemptions from that. Other than that, we have to work off of our paid time off, but I’m a new employee so I don’t have that much to use.

My supervisor said, “Angel, you’re not alone. We have so many employees that have the same issues that you’re having. Do the best you can. Take care of the kids first.” But this is my sole income to provide for the kids, so I was determined to find something. I like to consider myself a very resourceful person. I started looking on the Henry Ford Health System’s website for COVID-19 resources. I saw one that said child care resources and found information about Bright Horizons. 

I was a little skeptical — everything was closed, so I thought they must be at this point, too. But I went ahead and called. I left a voicemail with my name, my job title, and what I was looking for. I received a call back from a Bright Horizons teacher named April, filled out the paperwork, and then — it was kind of like a miracle. I was trying to figure out how I could afford their services, but she said, “This is going to be free if you are a first responder.” It saved my world because I really don’t know what I would have done. I probably would have lost my job, and I fought too hard to get here to have that happen. When all of this is over, I still need to provide. This saved me — and the kids love it there, too.

When I told the kids that they were going, they were so excited. I took them with me when I dropped the paperwork off and they got to meet April and some of the staff  — they just couldn’t wait for Monday.  

Now, I’m able to work five full days and I’m able to sleep well at night knowing that my kids are going to have somewhere safe to be and something to do during all of this. It took a lot of pressure off me. They’re doing crafts and being kids and it’s making their life normal for the most part, which is so important right now. 

Raising three kids by yourself — I really depend on my system and when everything stopped, my whole world kind of stopped. I want to make sure I still can provide, pay the rent, pay the bills, put food in the refrigerator, so having Bright Horizons get funded to take some kids of first responders was like Heaven sent. It was just lifesaving for me. And having the centers open, that’s giving their teachers the opportunity to have some work — it’s a chain reaction. All of us are affected by it.

Angel and her kids at the Bright Horizons #FirstRespondersFirst child care hub in Detroit.

To help #FirstRespondersFirst Fund provide the supplies, equipment, and resources that healthcare professionals need to safely continue doing their work, text FIRST to 50555 or visit thriveglobal.com/firstresponders to donate.

Conceived by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global, and the CAA Foundation, #FirstRespondersFirst is an initiative created to provide first responder healthcare workers, ranging from minimum-wage hourly workers in home-care settings to social workers, nurses, physicians, and beyond, with physical and psychological resources they so desperately need as they serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their partnership with #FirstRespondersFirst, Bright Horizons is offering free child care for the children of first responders, enabling this workforce to have peace of mind to focus on their critical jobs. The centers have special COVID-19 protocols in place, including limited capacity and small group sizes, enhanced teacher-to-child ratios, and intensive hygiene and cleaning practices to protect the health and safety of the children and staff. The centers will be staffed with expertly trained and experienced local Bright Horizons early educators, and available for children ages infant through 6 years old. 

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