Meet a veteran ParentCorps facilitator

For Latinx Heritage Month, we had the privilege of sitting down with one of our longtime ParentCorps facilitators, NYC early childhood social worker Ruben Fermín. In this conversation, we learned more about Ruben’s experience facilitating ParentCorps’ Parenting Program (a group-based program designed to support pre-K families to promote children’s early learning and development), his 26-year career in social work, and – importantly – how his Latinx identity shows up in engaging caregivers as partners.

Melissa Santos: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Share what you feel is an important part of your identity.

Ruben Fermín: I was born in the Dominican Republic, and came to the States when I just turned eight years old with my brother and sister. I grew up in Washington Heights, on 180st between St. Nicholas and Audubon Ave. I say that because it’s an identity growing up there.

I was young, but I came into a situation where I had room to grow, with open arms, and a community. I went to PS 115, in District 6. I went to middle school and high school in Washington Heights. In college I ventured out, and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in social work.

I identify as male. My pronouns are he/him. I’m married 23 years, and I have three children – a 21 year old, 17 year old and 10 year old. I want to highlight that because it’s a major part of my narrative, too.

MS: You started touching on how you ended up in social work. What led you to social work, and why this profession?

RF: Right out of college I went to work for victim services – that was the name at the time. Two days into my job, I am in front of a judge advocating for a domestic violence survivor who was really being put through hell by her abusive partner – but also by the court system and by ACS. I had no idea at the time of the magnitude and the context. I curiously began to question and learn about the systems at play in the life of a human.

I stayed [in victim services] until the opportunity presented itself at the DECE [NYC Department of Education Division of Early Childhood Education]. I realized that I wanted to devote my career to early childhood and families.

MS: I just learned so much more about you. What is your connection to ParentCorps? How did you become involved with ParentCorps?

RF: I like that the values and belief system behind ParentCorps are very parent-centered, family-centered. ParentCorps offers a lot of information to parents that is actually evidence-based. To me, the combination of it being family-centered, early childhood centered, and evidence-based – right away those things really grabbed me.

I didn’t want to facilitate a program patronizing parents. In my career, once in a while I had to do mandated parenting groups – which I learned from, but I just felt that there was no autonomy there.