Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Homeless, Unwed Mother, Foster Child, Living by her Rules

September 9, 2008


Meet Jamillah Williams, a foster child who became pregnant while living in a homeless shelter. She gave birth just after her eighteen birthday to an underweight baby boy, a baby she never wanted but credits him now with keeping her on track.

Jamillah has the courage that most of us could only dream of. She endured a decade of physical and sexual abuse starting at five years old by her own father, a convicted sex offender. She speaks in a monotone voice as she describes the abuse never wavering even once when she says, “he raped me”. To her, it is a fact of life. Emotion never enters her voice and her story rolls off her tongue as if she were describing what she ate for breakfast.

“The first person I told was my mother but she didn’t believe me so I went to a social worker in school and told her like some things that were bothering me at home and she felt like as though DYFS should step in.  DYFS came to school and removed me. They went back to my house and arrested my father and removed my sister and brother”, Jamillah says. “I was just tired of living in a house with somebody I feared. I felt that I shouldn’t have to fear somebody that lives in my house.” Anger, hatred, despair, none of these emotions creep into her voice or mannerisms as she continues her story.

“I was mad because I didn’t want to be removed from my house. I just wanted my father to be removed and I wanted to be home with my mother. But they (DYFS) felt as though if I told my mother and she didn’t do nothing about it she’s just as wrong as anybody else. I was upset. I lost a lot of weight. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to be bothered,” she says. “I wanted to drop out of highschool. I was just going through a lot”.

“My mother, she’s actually doing ok. We still talk from time to time but it’s not like it’s a strong relationship”. Her mother was lost her section eight rent subsizided apartment not long after her father was arrested and moved into a homeless shelter with her sister and brother. “The judge said my mother couldn’t take us because my mother was working only one job that wasn’t paying enough. She couldn’t take care of all three of us if we was living at home.  (DYFS) asked us did we had any relatives at first. I gave them my grandmother name, I gave them my aunt name. They said every name you give us, they have to do a background check and if it comes back negative you can’t stay with them. When my grandmother got back she took my sister instead of me. Ten they contacted my aunt, they told me I couldn’t live with my aunt because she lives in a bad neighborhood. I couldn’t live with my other aunt because she had a record. I was basically stuck in the foster system.”

Jamillah moved to numerous homeless shelters and at least five foster homes before landing at Raphaels Life House in November, a home for unwed mothers affiliated with Covenant House. With the help of Raphaels Life House and Covenant House Newark, Jamillah moved into her first apartment with her son last week. A rent subsized apartmet though the section eight.


Teenagers Need Adoption Too – 25 to 30 Foster Homes

July 2, 2008


Meet Gwendolyn Ross – Mama Gwen – Career Development Specialist – Covenant House New Jersey – Crisis Center

The teenagers need to be adopted to.

“I have seen scars on their body. They’re just chopped, chopped.”

When Mama Gwen tells you stories about her students, you have no choice but to site and listen intently. Her emotions boil over. Tears well up in her eyes. She’s feels their pain and you can’t help but feel it yourself.

“When you hear young people tell you I’ve been in 25, 30 different foster homes Mama Gwen, nobody really cares about me and this is why I’m homeless today.

Because if they cared, even if my grandmother would have cared, or my auntie or uncle but no, they don’t care so they’re homeless. Once they become a teenager seeing like they want the little children. They won’t want a full grown teenager.. They feel like they’re already set in their ways,” Mama Gwen says as she breaks down in tears.

“They want to be adopted as well and they’re labeled. And that’s why you find them before they get here (Covenant House), they’re in the street, they’re sleeping at the train station, they’re sleeping under the train station. They’re sleeping wherever they possibly can because there is nobody, once they’re 18 and it’s ok, you’re case is closed, where do I go from there?

Once they turn 18 years old they don’t even want to hear the word DYFS, they don’t want to be bothered no more. They can only think about what they’ve been through with the state. They have an attitude, they’re angry, they’re hurt and when you say things to them, well DYFS can do this for you now, please Mama Gwen, I don’t wanna hear nothing about DYFS. That is the bottom line. They have to go through anger management. They have to go through all different types of skills to bring them back as a whole person. They’ve just been chopped, chopped. Literally. I have seen students shown me scars on their body.

And I’m thinking to myself, well if you’re with DYFS, why didn’t somebody do something about this? Because, Mama Gwen, (the students tell her) they don’t care and that’s the bottom line. There has to be a change.
If you can’t give them type of foundation, that type of love, don’t take it for the money because in the long run you’re hurting the children.” It’s takes only an instant for the phone to ring and Mama’s back on focus. “He didn’t show up for his interview? Well don’t worry, I’m back and he’s show up this time.” Mama looks up, “Gottta stay on top of these kids all the time.”

James – Covenant House

June 16, 2008



Entered DYFS system in 1998

Possible homeless child to document long term. Lengthy audio interview at Covenant House. MODEL RELEASE SIGNED.

Lived in numerous foster house as well as transitional homes.

  • Newark Transitional Housing
  • YCS Shelter in Jersey City
  • Volunteers of America in Plainfield
  • Goodwill Missionary Home in Newark

Talking about his history and claims:

  • His step father raped him numerous times
  • Step father dropped off him and his brother at dyfs, not interested in taking care of them any longer
  • Lived with one foster family for 3 years until accusations of stealing money from the family
  • Doesn’t know his legal status as to whether or not he was legally free for adoption when he finally aged out
  • Signed himself out of dyfs care at 18 and signed himself back in to dyfs so that he could get his month stipend and medicaid but says he’s only received one check in the past six months

While living at Volunteers of America in Jersey City, he says he almost choked his girlfriend until he went to staff member Kevin Williams fo help. Came to 3 conclusions as to what his life would be:

  1. A rapist or child molester
  2. Locked up in prison
  3. Control and abuse women

He was taken to a hospital for counseling.

He’s a member of: 24/7 Community Church Newark of the Worldwide Church of God.

Say’s he’s fathered at least two children with one dying last year


  1. Priscilla Speed – current case worker DO2
  2. Marlin Cenatus
  3. Candido Rivera

Audio: 165-171 on Korg – 6/16/08

Raphael’s Life House

June 16, 2008

Raphael House will be the contact for unwed mothers who are former foster children.

Raphael House

Raphael’s Life House is a nonsectarian transitional residence for women who are homeless and pregnant. These women will find here a place where they can rebuild their lives and give their child a positive start in life.

All women between the ages of 18 and 23 are welcome regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, or economic status. They must be mentally and physically capable of taking care of themselves and to be drug and alcohol free.

Identifying Kids

June 16, 2008

Back to Covenant House again this morning. Focusing of finding former foster kids who are now homeless and identifying those who are willing to commit to a long term project.

The kids are very transient and pinning a few down will be difficult.

Spending the day at Raphael House in Newark tomorrow. Interviewing 4 teenage mothers who were former foster children and now single mothers.

Raphael House

Content Management Systems

June 11, 2008

Searching for content management systems to handle all the audio I’ll be collecting. Came across this one:

A good resource on content management and work flow. Still searching for the right combination before it gets unmanageable.

5 Hours of Audio Tape

June 10, 2008

Today’s visit to Covenant House was a basic overview of how Covenant House works with homeless kids.

Not all have a history of foster care, many are just shuffled from relative to relative until they turn 18 and then kicked out of their homes. Many though do have a history of foster care and not just a few placements but dozens of placements. Home after home after home after home, shuffled for years on end and then let loose into the world with little to no resources.


After today, it seems not. It’s left to social services non profits like Covenant House to step in and try to save them before it’s too late. From what I saw today, only a handful are captured in Covenant’s safety net.

I put a cordless mic on Covenant House New Jersey Outreach Liaison Janette Scrozzo today and taped her as she gave me a tour and introduced me to numerous staff and several of the kids living there. It worked out great with the cordless as it was much less intrusive that holding a mic.

One of the major issues is going to be content management. I’ve backed up the audio from today on three separate hard drives in a folder with today’s date and Covenant House. This could quickly get overwhelming in terms of editing audio but I thought it was essential to get a basic understanding of what they do and how they approach the kids. Already some really strong sound bytes.

I had my camera but didn’t shoot a photo. More important to assimilate and get background that will help me later in the project.