Learn How Heart of Courage is Transforming Mother's Lives - Mary's Pence

Women's Stories  |  Grants

Learn How Heart of Courage is Transforming Mother’s Lives

Heart of Courage was born out of Dania Carter’s profound concern for families navigating the challenges of the child welfare system. Witnessing the shortage of foster homes and recognizing the innate desire of children to remain with their parents, Dania couldn’t reconcile with the notion of tearing families apart without exploring alternative solutions. Her reflections led her to a critical realization: there are not sufficient support services tailored to the needs of mothers who have found themselves dealing with the system for different reasons. 

After much thought, she realized she needed to take action, and that’s when, in 20213, she founded Heart of Courage to assist and support mothers who have temporarily lost custody of their children due to addiction, incarceration, domestic violence, mental health struggles, and homelessness. 

Through compassionate support and comprehensive programs, Heart of Courage works alongside these mothers to make changes in their lives and create a positive and sustainable future. The organization believes that when women acknowledge their self-worth, resilience, and courage, there’s space for self-accountability, self-acceptance, and lasting change. They want to break generational cycles of abandonment and abuse, provide holistic support to eliminate the stigma surrounding family separation, and empower mothers.

Dania, founder and CEO of Heart of Courage, says, “We believe that, if possible, children should be with their mother when she is willing to work hard to make the changes in her life needed to create a positive and sustainable future. What we continue to learn is that these mothers need a voice. They have incredible strengths they don’t realize until their mentor points them out to them. These mothers have fought abuse of all kinds, teen parents at 12 and 13, addictions, homelessness, abandonment, incarceration, mental health, and yet, they continue to fight for their children. They continue to desire to provide a better life than they had. They just need the support and encouragement they may have never had.”

Heart of Courage maintains high accountability with each mother in their program through weekly check-ins, assistance with court dates, and personalized action plans that cover different aspects of their lives, such as income, employment, housing, childcare, education, legal matters, health care, mental health, substance abuse, family relations, transportation, goal setting, and parenting skills. Heart of Courage is helping mothers through the following wrap-around services:

Court Advocacy: They accompany mothers to court hearings, providing support, clarification on the legal process, and assistance in defining the next steps. This is much-needed support since most of their clients are fighting this fight alone.

Moms Like Us (Peer Mentoring):  Hear of Courage has found that it’s essential for mothers to hear stories and advice from women who have walked the same path. Through peer mentoring, mothers receive support, encouragement to make positive choices, and assistance in overcoming past challenges.

Breaking Barriers (Career and Education Coaching): This program helps mothers overcome employment barriers, gain skills, and transition from public assistance to long-term employment.

Community Outreach: They educate the community about the foster care system and partner with other organizations to help mothers maintain custody of their children.

Education & Support: They offer Quarterly Child Welfare Workshops, Courage2Change Group Parent Support, and they are starting a blog called Get It Out, Sis!

Creation of Systemic Change Through Compassionate Care

Heart of Courage clients are predominantly African American. “We serve about 76% African American, 20% White, and 4% Hispanic. In Dallas County, Black children make up 22% of the child population but account for 43% of children removed from their homes. A professor at UT Austin told us that in their research, 40% of the mothers who have a CPS case were once in CPS as a child. We want to help break those generational cycles. All of our clients come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Many are 2nd and 3rd generation child welfare impacted. Meaning as a child, they had CPS in their life, and so did one of their parents.” Says Dania.

The core mission of Heart of Courage is to reunite children with their mothers, but success is measured beyond mere reunification. It lies in the transformation of the mothers’ lives—seeing them maintain sobriety, secure employment, nurture emotional well-being, and create safe environments for their families; it’s already a sign that the mothers are gaining control and are committed to getting their children back. Moreover, by advocating against systemic biases within the child welfare system, Heart of Courage aims to shift public opinion and ensure fair treatment for marginalized communities.

Mary’s Pence Grant Impact

The recent Mary’s Pence grant will help the organization further its mission and launch the Therapy Assistance Fund. Recognizing the importance of mental health in the mothers’ journey to healing, this fund aims to remove financial barriers to therapy and facilitate access to compatible therapists. Through this initiative, the organization hopes to provide a safe space for mothers to heal, free from the fear of judgment or repercussions from the child welfare system.

While Heart of Courage dreams of a future where its services are no longer needed, the reality is that the need for support persists. As the organization continues its impactful work in Texas, there are aspirations to expand its reach to neighboring states like Louisiana, where many of the mothers Heart of Courage serves also have children still living there.


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