Creating Safe Spaces for Healing with Youth of Color
Irreducible Grace Foundation (IGF) began in 2012 by a group of Saint Paul Public Schools educators, led by Dr. Darlene Fry, who saw the large racial disparities of on-time graduation rates between African American, American Indian, and Hispanic students to their Caucasian and Asian counterparts. In looking deeper into this "off-track"-titled population, nearly 90% of them had been in out-of-home placement during their school career. (Out-of-home placement covers foster care, homelessness, juvenile detention and chemical rehabilitation).
In conducting listening sessions with youth from these populations we learned that many began their out-of-home placements in foster care. For many, this created an unfortunate pathway into juvenile detention, chemical rehabilitation or being homeless.
As a foster-to-adopt parent, Dr. Fry knew the barriers facing this group of young people. Affecting positive change with these students would extend far beyond her grasp within the school district. In 2013, she left Saint Paul Schools to devote her full attention to IGF. Since 2012, we have worked consistently with 15 youth who were in chronic need of support and 25 others who came to work with our Fostering Voice performances and workshops.
Our young people are now poised and eager to take on leadership roles. They want to develop more outlets to help young people who are experiencing similar life struggles. In their own words, "We want to be the help we never got."
Where Did Our Name Come From?
“Irreducible Grace” comes from the experience shared with the members of the founding board, in a child coming into our lives from the foster care system, with the ability to love us even though so many adults had failed her previously. Being nonverbal, this child had a smile that radiated love, that couldn’t be reduced (Irreducible) by the world around her. In her sharing of love we all received the “unmerited favor” (Grace) in assisting her in living a new life.
We began with listening sessions with youth; young adult and parents of those were or had been in foster care. What we heard helped us to create a safe space for youth of color to express themselves, learn and support one another into a healthy adulthood. IGF is the little organization with the funny name that is youth-influenced in creating safe spaces and healing opportunities for youth of color.