Three years ago, when the Department of Defense transferred my husband from Fort Detrick to Aberdeen Proving Ground, my family and I chose to settle in Harford County near Bel Air. We had enjoyed raising our kids in a quiet, small town setting near Frederick, and we wanted to continue that lifestyle here. But as a mom of kids with special needs, I also wanted to make sure we had access to the best education and healthcare resources. That's a concern that every parent shares, but the stakes are even higher for special needs kids.

We had done our homework, so to speak, visiting several neighborhood schools that boasted high test scores for their children. I also looked to situate ourselves in a neighborhood with quick access to community spaces, libraries and parks. What we didn't realize was that funding for Harford County public schools was falling behind other counties. Complicating the issue was the fact that the number of mental health practices east of Baltimore was far below the needs of the population. Even with good insurance, we had to wait months to get into a practice that required out-of-pocket payments for our kids' mental health needs.

As an educator myself, I understand the struggle of meeting the needs of individual students. My daughter has been able to thrive in her new school. However, despite the best efforts of teachers and frequent IEP adjustments, we had to remove my son from the local school. And after a difficult year of my son being bussed back and forth to a special education school in Baltimore an hour and a half each way, we felt that our bright and curious child did not fit into the school system's cookie cutter approach to education, so we decided that the best option for him was homeschooling.

The school shooting in Florida earlier this year serves as an extreme example of a young person who fell through the cracks of the system. Yes, he is solely responsible for his horrendous act, but at each step in his journey through education and social services there was an opportunity to turn his life and future behavior towards something positive. We as a society are losing more and more children to violence and drug abuse because families lack access to timely help and needed services.

As a member of the County Council, I will be there for every student, every parent, and every member of our community that benefits from a county that lets each and every one shine to their fullest potential.