As a single mother of an autistic son, Erika Barragan often felt she was unprepared for the unique challenges she faced as the parent of a child with special needs.
It’s extremely rare for the 36-year-old Anaheim resident to find time for self-care.
The Orange County Family Justice Center (OCFJC) pampered Barragan and 29 other mothers during its second annual “Queen For A Day” celebration earlier this month where they received a free makeover, photo shoot, and lunch. The mothers were the latest cohort from the OCFJC’s Parents Creating Change program, a 10-session class that coaches parents on positive parenting, self-esteem, conflict resolution, and stress management. They’re typically referred by the Mexican Consulate in Santa Ana and liaisons at local school districts who notice students displaying behavioral problems.
“Before I didn’t feel prepared for my kids but now that I have the other women in my life I feel better prepared to deal with any situation,” Barragan said.
Anaheim Police Lt. Willie Triplett II said he and his colleagues at the OCFJC felt good about providing the mothers with much needed “me time,” adding that he appreciates the sacrifices they’ve made since joining the Parents Creating Change program.
“It’s important to recognize those who have been in bad situations and they have been resilient in overcoming those situations,” Triplett said. “They have been leaders in their communities and help others who have been in bad situations overcome those challenges.”
The OCFJC, founded by the Anaheim Police Department in 2006, serves all Orange County victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and sexual assaults.
Stephanie Bruschini, a community services specialist for the City of Anaheim, said the OCFJC Foundation decided to hold the inaugural “Queen for a Day” celebration last year to recognize 30 women nominated by the OCFJC’s partner agencies. The foundation received thank you notes from these mothers expressing their deep gratitude for being included, she said.
“I want to say 99 percent of the letters said, ‘I never get to do anything for myself. Thank you for doing this for me,’” Bruschini said.
Beauty Glam Academy of Santa Ana sent cosmetology students to the center to treat the mothers to professional make-up and hair styling. Afterward, they modeled their new looks during a session with a professional photographer.
Marycruz Hernandez, 34, of Tustin was invited to attend the “Queen for a Day” celebration after winning a raffle at her children’s elementary school.
“When I first heard about the event I was in shock because I’ve never had this opportunity before,” she said.
As the mother of four girls, Hernandez said it’s hard to find time to take care of herself. Getting to know fellow mothers in the Parents Creating Change program has given her the support to more effectively parent her rebellious six-year-old.
“Every woman that I’m in the class with has a different story and through these stories, we’re able to help each other and I consider them more like sisters,” Hernandez said.
After enjoying their day as queen, the mothers received goodie bags that included make-up, facial wipes, lotion, a bracelet, and a nail file. Sue Glowacki, a volunteer with the OCFJC Foundation, said the items were deliberately picked because they were only useful to the mothers, instead of gift cards that would probably be spent on their children.
“All of these are self-care things that will make them feel more beautiful and it’s just for them,” Glowacki said.