Genesis Hopeful Haven Founded by Fritzie Santoiry, prepares foster youth to age out of the dependency system with guidance, resources, and essential life skills.
MeetFritzie Santoiry, Our Mujer Balance of the Week, and learn about the amazing work she does with these Foster children and a foundation that strives to strengthen the lives of youth in foster care through supportive housing and programs that promote hope, healing, and independence.
Who is Fritzie Saintoiry?
In order to understand Genesis Hopeful Haven’s mission, it is important to share our origin story.
During her formative years, our founder and current Executive Director, Fritzie Saintoiry, lived at her aunt’s orphanage in Haiti. Fritzie’s earliest childhood memories, Her close childhood friends and life experiences were of the orphanage, which provided a supportive and nurturing family atmosphere, that enabled children to succeed and planted the seed of creating family and connections for children without a biological family. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work with the idea of helping children who were orphans. In 2010, Fritzie lost her precious son due to prematurity and this traumatic experience created the space for Fritzie to turn her pain into purpose. In 2012, after working in the Child Welfare system in Chicago for 6 years, she decided to move to Miami, which was reported to have the worst foster care system in the United States.
Fritzie’s passion for foster children is embedded into every area of her life.
Aside from pursuing this passion, she also enjoys traveling, taking tennis lessons, doing hot yoga, hanging out with friends, and practicing mindfulness.
What is BALANCE for you, and how do you achieve it in your daily life?
Balance is extremely important in my life. If I can’t help myself there is no way I can help others. Burnout occurs when we don’t have a healthy balance. I try to do something that makes me happy EVERY DAY. I’m intentional about meditating, playing loud music/dancing while getting ready for my day, listing out positive affirmations, and always writing 5 daily things I’m grateful for. Balance creates healing for the everyday junk that comes our way. When we have a clear mind, we can make good decisions.
Can you tell us more about Genesis Hopeful Haven?
We prepare foster youth to age out of the dependency system (at age 18) with guidance, resources, essential life skills and a community of caring adults, thus creating a greater chance for them to live interdependent, fulfilling lives as productive citizens of society.
Our program includes two housing programs, located in the Redlands and Homestead, for boys who have aged out of the foster care system.
Successful Transition Empowerment Program (S.T.E.P)
A major component of our programmatic activities includes the Successful Transition Empowerment Program (S.T.E.P), which assists in the development of independent living and leadership skills among both our current and former foster youth in partnership with Florida International University. S.T.E.P. includes weekly sessions covering topics such as healthy relationships, maintaining daily routines and habits, employment, education, mental health, housing knowledge, leadership and integrity, civic engagement, and financial literacy.
To encourage exploration of healthy leisure activities throughout the year, our youth engage in field trips such as paddle boarding, fishing, bowling, horseback riding, and other fun activities. We do this monthly during the school year and weekly in the summer.
Our youth have weekly STEM workshops where they learn how to make soaps, scrubs, deodorants, and other essentials. Coding, sports, poetry, music, and therapeutic art classes are also offered. In addition, we’ve partnered with an organization that holds weekly sessions with our youth to discuss advocacy and social change. Our program focuses on healing, unleashing new skills, and building community.
GHH Internship Project
In order to help foster youth take the next step towards employment, we created and implemented theGHH Internship Project, connecting youth with local professionals in their chosen field of interest. Recognizing the important role that higher education plays in achieving long term success, we also provide tutoring to support their educational goals.
Through our Explorer Program, we take our youth on their first vacation, traveling to places like the Grand Canyon and Maine. Due to COVID-19, we have postponed this summer’s trip to the Smoky Mountains, but that will be our Explorers’ next destination.
We engage with families, mentors, leaders, and professionals in our communities to help us fill in the gaps of support for our foster youth. What makes our program unique is that we provide foster youth with vital skills needed to age out of the foster care system successfully.
What services does Genesis Hopeful Haven offer?
Housing, Life Skills and Leadership Training (Camp Independence), an After School program for life skills training, tutoring, internships, and traveling experience.
Can you give us your point of view of the BLM movement and how this affects the foster system?
Black foster youth are some of the most disenfranchised and vulnerable populations. Black foster youth not only deal with personal trauma but must also deal with the psychological trauma of systematic racism.
Our Black foster youth exist in systems that are embedded with racism.
Think about this – the first system in the United States strategically designed for Blacks – was slavery. A quote by WEB DuBois summarizes the goal of the American system as it pertains to Blacks:
“A system cannot fail those it was never designed to protect.”
Black children are disproportionately overrepresented in child welfare and are more likely to be placed in foster care, where they stay longer and are far less likely to be adopted.
In general, foster youth have lower educational outcomes compared to their non-foster youth peers. Foster youth are up to 50% less likely to meet proficiency standards on math and English standardized tests when compared to similar at-risk student groups. Youth from foster care are less likely to graduate from high school or enroll in post-secondary education. Only 2% of foster youth earn a college degree in Florida.
When the educational outcomes of foster youth are compared by race, Black and White foster youth have similar educational attainment. However, when foster youth earn a college degree, significant racial disparities persist with employment.
In general, Blacks with a college degree are twice as less likely to be employed and they experience wage gaps compared to Whites with a college degree.
These children are in the custody of the state but are easily forgotten about. They are in a system that is designed to re-traumatize them. Everything is based on money not the well-being of the child. They are not prioritized, even though they are our future.
At GHH, we believe it’s important to partner with the community to build social capital for our youth, which leads to employment opportunities and creates a sense of belonging.
By reducing homelessness amongst foster youth and increasing education and employment opportunities, we offer them a greater chance to live independent, fulfilling lives as happy and productive citizens of society.
Advocating for foster youth must intentionally include the intersection of race. We must respond to the needs of Black foster youth by actively being a part of dismantling racism.
How can we help your mission?
By spreading the word about the Mission of Genesis Hopeful Haven, volunteering with the organization, and helping us build a community center that can offer our youth the same resources that their peers who aren’t in foster care have access to.
We envision this to be a place that they feel safe and at home while learning new skills and being around people that can relate to them and love them. Help us foster new beginnings by exposing foster youth to new experiences and giving them the opportunities they deserve.
Thank you, Andrea, for giving us this platform to share our mission, program, and vision.
I believe that it takes a village to raise a child and our program works because of the amazing people, like yourself, who truly care.
We change one life at a time and our model works!
Click here if you want to Donate to this amazing cause.