By: Tiffany Crouse
A young Hispanic girl gets up for school. She dresses herself, feeds herself, and puts herself on the bus. She goes through her school day barely acknowledged by teachers and peers.
The most credit she gets for her existence is being the only Hispanic person in her small school. She has memories of her parents teaching her Spanish and praying to la Virgin de Guadalupe at her family’s shrine.
It has been years since she has done anything related to Hispanic culture. She can’t remember her prayers, and the images of the shrine are a blurred in her mind.
The language of her parents is almost completely gone from her memory.
She gets back to her foster home, eats, and goes to bed to dream about her family and a world where she fits in.
“Foster care is not the best system to raise children. In fact it can be very traumatic or it can exacerbate the trauma that they have already been exposed to.
Just being separated from your family in and of itself is traumatic.
Then being placed into a system that is not responsive to your needs can be even more devastating,” said Jermaine Reed, Executive Director of Fresh Start Family Services and host of 860 WNOV’s new radio show, “Fresh Start”.
Pastor Reed will be hosting Fresh Start, a radio show dedicated to holding conversations about child welfare and the foster care system.
“We want to extend a hand and invite people to come to the table to talk about what they are doing, and hopefully this can eliminate some of the false perceptions that we have about the [foster care] system,” said Reed.
He will invite educators, people from within “the system,” and other child welfare professionals in order to create a healthy dialogue about child welfare.
Education about the child welfare system is the main focus for Reed’s show. He will discuss topics such as the mental health crisis for children, special education, IEPs (Individual Learning Plans), and the mental scars that can lead children down dark paths.
“Sometimes foster care can be a breeding ground that conditions young people to think that their place in a home is only for fanatical gain of a caregiver; which makes it very easy for someone who is a pimp to play off those emotional scars,” said Reed.
He said he will talk about the importance of a fraternal role in a pro-mom system and the dangerous slope between child welfare and adult corrections. Reed wants to open up a conversation to find solutions to major problems in the child welfare system.
“The majority of children in and out of home care are African-American.
They stay in the system longer than anyone else; they are more likely to age out of the system.
Therefore, their lives are gravely impacted by child welfare,” said Reed.
This is one of the many reasons that Reed became involved in the foster care system.
Reed started the Fresh Start Counseling Center eleven years ago as an outpatient mental health center. “A lot of our patients were part of foster care,” said Reed. He extended his agency into placing kids into foster homes. Reed’s family embraced neglected youths, and he had friends who were in foster care growing up. As Reed grew older, he wanted to give back.
Reed takes part in all aspects of Fresh Start Counseling Center.
He said the most important part of the foster care process is getting to know the children and their families as more than a number. “Making sure that the program is culturally responsive to the needs of the children who are placed in our program [this]is an important aspect of our help,” said Reed.
“The greatest struggle in our job is dealing with bureaucracy that does not support the well-being of the children. Sometimes bureaucracy can be our biggest obstacle,” said Reed.
Some policies do not meet the needs of the children. When it comes to things like cultural competence, certain the policies are unable to help displaced children in the system. Reed would like to help as many children as possible.
“What’s been rewarding is being able to touches these children’s lives in a very responsible, healthy way,” said Reed.
“When I look at the news and I turn on the radio, and I see people who used to be a part of the foster care system committing crimes; I wonder where we went wrong, what can we do better?”
Reeds passion for his work is fueled by everyday events around him, and he looks forward to sharing that passion with the community. “I live and breathe it. It’s my community, it’s me.
Whether I’m in a place of worship, in a grocery store, whether I’m driving down the street, it is us, it’s who I am. I don’t turn it off at 5P.M.,” said Reed.
“If our children aren’t healthy … regardless of whatever our role is … our responsibility is: what are you doing to improve the quality of life for our children?
Because, if we improve the quality of life for our children, we will ensure the future of our race,” said Reed. Tune into WNOV 860 AM September 3rd at 3P.M. to hear Reed’s new weekly show, “Fresh Start”.
Reed said the most important part of this show will be “…creating a place where child welfare can become a community focus versus a system focus.”