‘She just needed some support’: Youth Eastside Services builds up a mom

Youth Eastside Services helps children, youth and families suffering violence, emotional distress or substance abuse in East King County, Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland.

Her eyes shine, and she can’t wait to show you her castle (cardboard, sure, but a castle all the same), how high she can jump on her mini-trampoline — or how much she loves her mom.

That’s Maya today at age 4, and her mom Laura Nelson-Mann, 26, of Bellevue, after four years of intensive work with Youth Eastside Services. Counselors helped Nelson-Mann grow from a struggling new single parent, emerging from an abusive relationship, to a confident mother full of plans for herself and her thriving young daughter.

“I was always worried, overwhelmed, I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing,” said Nelson-Mann. “I didn’t know if I was too harsh, or not harsh enough. She’s upset. I’m upset. I didn’t really know what to do or where to go.”


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When she was still pregnant, she was referred through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program to Youth Eastside Services, one of a dozen nonprofits that share in The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy, supported by reader donations.

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That’s where she got the help she needed.

Karen Wherlock, a family support specialist from Youth Eastside Services, came to Nelson-Mann’s home to observe her interacting with Maya, and offer assistance and support on everything from breast-feeding to establishing a sleep schedule, learning how to give positive reinforcement, setting boundaries and playing.

When Nelson-Mann’s abusive boyfriend threatened her and Maya, she said, Wherlock helped her obtain a protection order.

As Maya grew into a toddler, Nelson-Mann grew, too, “graduating” to other help offered at Youth Eastside Services, including a counseling program to coach her in parenting. Watching through one-way glass and listening in on Nelson-Mann’s interaction with Maya, Jackie Bui, education and prevention director and clinical director for YES,…

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