Stories of Meaningful Change


Stories from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

Meeting Families Where They Are

Sincere Smith, 4, Ebony Dunigan, LLMFT, clinical therapist, and Aliana Hawk, 3

Two-year-old Sincere Smith's photograph appeared on the cover of Time magazine in February 2016. For his mother, Ariana Hawk, seeing the photo made her think about the challenges and struggles he was going through and what other Flint children were facing. The sickness, rashes, pain and hurt were all too real for her family. So she moved out of Flint.

"The lead exposure was a lot. I felt like we needed to get away from the whole environment but we missed being home," said Hawk. "I'm glad we're back. I'm just hoping we can have safe and affordable water."

Today, she and her three children are benefiting from services provided by Genesee Health System's (GHS) mobile mental health clinic, a 36-foot counseling facility on wheels. The mobile health team includes case managers and therapists who provide sessions to patients suffering from anxiety, depression, frustration and hopelessness. Hawk has formed a special relationship with Melissa Mays, a GHS Family Navigator.

"A lot of parents don't know where to start when it comes to working with other agencies, especially when there is a feeling of hopelessness," explained Mays. "There are so many families with needs, but they don't know where to start when they are in crisis."

Referrals are frequently made to the Department of Health and Human Services, water distribution sites, housing programs, food pantries, medical services, and insurance and bill payment assistance. After making referrals, GHS staff follow up to ensure individuals are connected to necessary services.

"There are a lot of resources out there that families are not aware of," Mays said. "Our goal is to have parents become their own strong advocate. It's a terrible thing that happened to us, but the kids are strong and are going to come out of this."

Hawk hopes for the day she can say, "My water is clean and I can drink a glass of water from the tap. I also hope my kids can play with water hoses in the summer. We took that for granted before."