Parent Talk Live
Former Prince George's County Public Schools Head Start Family Service Coordinator
claims she was terminated for defending a parent of an abused child
This is part one of an exclusive Forest Of The Rain Productions interview with Ms. Demetrius Deal, former Prince George's County Public Schools Head Start Family Services Coordinator. She agreed to discuss her claims, she was terminated for defending a parent of an abused child and her comments about a "cover-up" related to child abuse and neglect within Prince George's County Public Schools Head Start program.
According to Ms. Deal, the abused 3-year-old child was forced to mop up his urine as punishment for soiling his clothes during nap time. The county's public schools system and board of education were notified that the Head Start grant worth 6.5 million was terminated due to failure to "timely correct one or more deficiencies," a spokesperson said.
FOTRP: How are you doing? How is your family?
Ms. Deal: Other than being caught up in a real live scandal, I’m doing as well as can be expected, under these circumstances, yet still in disbelief. My family; we’re maintaining.
FOTRP: How long have you worked with or in the Head Start program in Prince George’s County Public Schools?
Ms. Deal: I’ve worked for Prince George’s County Public Schools for 18 years, 15 years as a Family Service Worker, the last 2 years of my employment, as a Head Start Family Service Coordinator and paraprofessional back in 1998, briefly and I LOVED every day of it.On contrary, it’s somewhat ironic to me how the School Board wants to classify the Head Start Program and its employee’s as a separate entity when in actuality we have always been PGCPS employees. In similar fashion, Head Start employees went through the same process as any other candidate seeking employment for the school system. In other words, the Office of Head Start, nor the Regional 3, Philadelphia, Administration for Children Families hired us, the School Board did!
FOTRP: What is Head Start and what makes it important in the academic lives of the children?
Ms. Deal: Head Start is a Federally funded program that provides comprehensive services to low-income, disadvantaged children, and their families. Further, these comprehensive services consist of an early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services. For instance, a family entering the Head Start Program would have an interdisciplinary team of staff members working to move this family from poverty towards prosperity within an academic school year. This interdisciplinary team would consist of a teacher, a paraprofessional, a Family Service Worker, a nutritionist, a Head Start Nurse, a Speech Pathologist, a Mental Health Advisor, and a Parent Involvement worker…all working to services the ENTIRE family, not just the child. To put it another way, if a low-income family of three-or-four, living in Prince George’s County, NEEDED a free, full day academic setting that will not only address their child’s need but the entire family as well, their only option was Head Start.
We provided an opportunity for children & families that didn’t and don’t exist in Prince George’s County, nor PGCPS System.
FOTRP: What does parental engagement look like in the Head Start program?
Ms. Deal: Parent engagement in the Head Start program is the backbone of what Head Start is supposed to be about. The Head Start philosophy is CLEAR…to bring about more social competence in children of low-income families, and let's be transparent, it starts with the parent. Thus, by making the family aware of all the comprehensives on the on-set, our primary objective is to move them from poverty towards prosperity by creating an individualized plan for each parent and child, as needed.
FOTRP: What was your job in Head Start?
Ms. Deal: I was the Family Service Coordinator. Within the organizational structure of Head Start there are 4 main components of Head Start, Education, Health, Parent Involvement and Family Service. I oversaw the Family Service Department by which consisted of a team of 4 Lead Family Service Workers and 3 Family Service Workers.
I had a staff of 4 Lead Family Service Workers and 3 Family Service Worker. I ensured that Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, & Enrollment of potential Head Start children was carried out, I also monitored the work of the Family Service Workers and the services they provided to the families in their caseload. In addition, I managed a caseload. My caseload consisted of 80 families, by which is unheard of for a coordinator.
FOTRP: How was your personal Head Start experience?
Ms. Deal: My personal experience with Head Start was and will always be, life changing. I love everything about Head Start from watching some parents entering the program feeling hopelessness to leaving feeling empowered. I was known to tell Head Start Staff members that one day I would be the next Head Start Program Supervisor, even though I had no credentials at that time. Starting my career with the organization in August of 1999, as a wide-eyed, young, inexperienced Family Service Worker, I took my job seriously. Being as though, I was a product of Head Start, I would sometimes over-identify with the families of which caused me to fight against management, in order for them to get what they deserved. I was raised to treat a janitor with the same respect as a CEO, and that mentality, I always gain the trust of the parents. I treated them with respect and dignity. Within my 18 years with the Head Start program, I was known to go above & beyond my job description, that’s a FACT, and I also was known, to stand up for my staff, and advocate for children & families as well, at all cost. So, when I recently lost my job, for likely discouraging a parent and failing to report “air quote” anyone who knows me, know that accusation goes against my character.
End the last two years of my employment; I wasn’t well like at the Head Start Central office, not even by the former Head Start Program Supervisor. After I got into the position of the Family Service Coordinator, I did change, my conviction was…God put me in a position of Leadership to make a change & impact children & families lives for better, and I was doing actually that. But, I believe, my colleagues & superiors felt that I had the audacity to demonstrate resilience, beat the odds, work, raise a family, pursue a Higher Education, earn three degree’s (Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and a Masters) become Doctoral candidate, and now supervise the people who were once my peers, I how dare me. And I’m sharing this because it became my experience. The hate was so great against me, I requested a voluntary transfer through my Union, in June of 2016. I mainly was disliked because of my outspoken voice, and the fact that I refuse to get along, just to go along with. As I reflect back, the last two years at head Start were rough, under the leadership of Program Supervisor.
FOTRP: Are you a whistleblower?
Ms. Deal: That’s funny…I am not a whistleblower, I haven’t blown the whistle on anyone, even though working for an organization for 18 years, trust me, I know a lot of things. However, I’m just a PGCPS employee whose been wrongfully terminated and decided to you speak out.
FOTRP: Did you appropriately report incidents of child abuse and neglect in the Head Start program?
Ms. Deal: Let's be clear, in my 18 years of working for Head Start the only allegation of child abuse & neglect that was brought directly to me from a parent, not as a third party, was the incident at H. Winship Wheatley, when the teacher made a child mop up his urine. I believe in my career, I reported one incident to CPS directly, only because the teacher asked me to do it for her because she was afraid of the parent by which I did and I was told by the CPS operator the teacher had to get on the phone and report it because I was a third party.
And to answer the question, of course, I appropriately reported this incident, according to the old administrative procedure 5145. Back then, January of 2016; from my training and understanding of what I was told, you could report any incident to the principal, and/or your supervisor by which I did. More importantly, I challenge anyone reading this, go ask any Head Start Central Office staff member, “What was the process, according to what our supervisor told us when it came to reporting Child Abuse & Neglect?” And trust me, they would all say the same thing, unless they had a specialized training on Child Abuse & Neglect because we didn’t as a whole…we can’t recall the last official Child Abuse & Neglect training we had, other than the most recent one, on March 10, 2016. Typically, they would read a few lines from PowerPoint and then make us sign, they being management. That was the Child Abuse & Neglect training. Lastly, I’m not trying to shift responsibility, I just being honest, it has ALWAYS been, reported to the building principal or your supervisor first, then it must be reported to CPS within 48 hours.
e principal problem, and the teaching teams report to the principals, not her, she was not their direct supervisor.
FOTRP: Can you describe the process for reporting cases of child abuse and neglect before the Safety Task Force recommendations and after their recommendations?
Ms. Deal: Before the Safety Task Force presented its recommendations, the process was any incident of child abuse or neglect, you were required to report it first to the building principal or your immediate supervisor before calling CPS. The principal or your supervisor would take all statements, have you fill out the incident report or they would and then submit it to CPS or ensure that it was submitted. As stated, this is what I was told. The policy after the Safety Task Force, we were informed that we now don’t have to report an incident of Child Abuse & Neglect to the principal nor your supervisor, we MUST directly report it to CPS ourselves. A mandatory Child Abuse & Neglect training was conducted on March 10, 2016.
FOTRP: Can you describe some of the forms of abuse and neglect that were reported to you and others?
Ms. Deal: Typically the teacher informs the Family Service Worker (FSW) of any suspected abuse or neglect, as a third party. Sometimes the teacher or paraprofessional tells the FSW to reports things that they have been made aware of or observed, but we always revert them back to the procedure. As an FSW, we get reports from the teaching teams of the children being not clean, no coat or dirty clothing, child is extra hunger, missing 4 consecutive days of school, or the child was returned to the school because a parent wasn’t at the bus stop or the child telling the teacher someone hit them…all incidents are third party information. Mainly because as an FSW, we are in and out of the schools, our caseloads are high and we have a purpose Typically the teacher informs the Family Service Worker of any suspected abuse or neglect, as a third party. Sometimes the teacher or paraprofessional tells the FSW to reports things that they have been made aware of or observed, but we always revert them back to the procedure. As an FSW, we get reports from the teaching teams of the children being not clean, no coat or dirty clothing, child is extra hunger, missing 4 consecutive days of school, or the child was returned to the school because a parent wasn’t at the bus stop or the child telling the teacher someone hit them…all incidents are third party information. Mainly because as an FSW, we are in and out of the schools, our caseloads are high and we have a purpose & an objective when we enter a school, so the teachers just keep us informed by suggesting a home visit is needed, to conduct a follow-up call or to schedule a parent meeting.
We, as Family Service workers in the school system, seldom have direct contact with children; we mostly work with the parent. Lastly, far as abuse reported to me, I only have one incident and that was the child with the mop, but far as others reports of abuse and neglect from others, you would have to ask them.
FOTRP: You indicated there was a lot of cover-up regarding child abuse and neglect, can you explain what you mean by that statement?
Ms. Deal: I know for a fact that there was a cover-up at four Head Start sites…Wheatley being one, Overlook, Highland Park and William Paca. All incidents involved the Program Supervisor and the school principal’s demonstrating willful blindness and covering up alleged child abuse & neglect, even after parents & staff complained. CPS was called after the fact or weeks later or never called at all. Recently, I learned that the two suspected abusers at Highland Park have finally been placed on administration leave or fired. In addition, I have seen one of my former Wheatley parents on the news reporting her incident, when her child was at Overlook. Also, I reported two parent complaints and a formal complaint from myself about this same teacher at Wheatley that made the little boy mop up his urine to the principal & the program supervisor on December 21, 2015, that they never addressed, and later to tell me to get over it.
FOTRP: You also stated in your Fox 5 interview that the school system has not changed its ways; please share what you mean by that statement?
• I know for a fact that the principal at H. Winship Wheatley & her staff just recently covered up another incident of child abuse & neglect, and it’s all documented.
• I know for a fact that the School system hasn't reached out to the parent of the victim of the child who was made to mop his urine with any support nor counseling like they stated at one of those Board meetings.
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