In August, Arizona’s Monica Garcia Bustamante, a Healthy Families home visitor in Douglas, received a national award – the Healthy Families America Outstanding Service Award. Monica accepted this award at the Prevent Child Abuse America Conference in front of over 1,800 attendees!

               Monica is the only full-time home visitor solely dedicated to families in Douglas, Arizona. Located on the Arizona-Mexico border, the families Monica works with are equal parts English and Spanish-speaking. Her bilingual abilities are one of the reasons why Monica describes herself as a ‘chameleon’. She feels that language can often influence personalities, and this reminds her to adapt to her different families. Additionally, Monica knows she must adapt and ‘change colors’ according to various family situations and how families choose to talk about trauma. Monica innately possesses this adaptable ‘chameleon’ ability, and she has built on her natural skill through professional development opportunities.

               Monica’s professional development experiences include Prevent Child Abuse Arizona’s Flourishing Families Practitioner Certification and Lean On Me AZ Training of Facilitators. Monica frequently uses the tools and tips she learned in Flourishing Families to help families build the protective factors in their lives: “The Flourishing Families activities highlight the resilience within families that they do not realize they have. It brings those strengths into vision for them.” Regarding Lean On Me AZ’s inaugural Training of Facilitators that she attended in July, Monica is excited to implement the tips and tools for building a culture of community support: “We have nothing like this in Douglas. It is so needed to normalize how families and the community can support one another here.”

               After years of commitment to the families she serves, Monica never expected to receive a national award for her work, especially because she works in such a remote community.  She assumed the tireless professionals in larger cities would get noticed far before her work in Douglas. It feels incredible to know that people are noticing the impact Healthy Families is having on her rural community. She also feels this is not just her award – but also a recognition of the families she works with. “In receiving the award, I felt like the families were also recognized. Our work is a partnership with families. This award is a way to thank and recognize them for the great work we have done together.” Monica also acknowledges the contribution of leadership: “The work is not possible without management’s support. Their investment in me translates to the families I serve. They deserve a huge shout out!” Leadership also played a role in helping Monica realize why she deserves such high-level recognition.

               What’s next for Monica? The home visitor recently returned to school as a full-time student while maintaining her full-time job and embracing her new role as a mom. While she has a few ideas for what is next, she is open to wherever the future takes her. Her only requirement? She wants to reach more people and sincerely hopes her education will show her how.