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The Social Worker behind “Save My Son”

 

Dr. Steve Perry

Young African American men are in trouble.

Only eight percent of black men aged 18-29 have graduated from college, compared to 17 percent of white males and 35 percent of Asians, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The unemployment rate for young African American men is twice as high as the national average and they are more likely to be in prison or jail.

Social worker, educator and author Dr. Steve Perry is taking part in an upcoming TVOne reality series called “Save My Son” to try to reverse these disheartening statistics.

During the program, which premieres September 26 at 9 p.m. Eastern, Perry will do interventions with young black men who are heading for trouble.

Perry will be assisted by a therapist and celebrity mentors including former NBA players Jalen Rose and Derek Anderson and American Idol winner and R&B singer Ruben Studdard.

Perry grew up in a poor family and flirted with a life of crime. But he discovered education was the key to success.

He earned a masters degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice and now runs Capital Preparatory Magnet School,a nationally recognized school in Hartford, Conn., that specializes in preparing students from poor neighborhoods for college.

SocialWorkersSpeak.org sat down with Perry to talk about his involvement with TV One and “Save My Son.”

Q: How did you get involved with the show?

PERRY: I was approached by a production company to consider participating in this show – this idea they had called “Save My Son.” I didn’t have a great deal of interest in doing any more television (Perry was featured on CNN’s “Black in America” series in 2009). I had done enough and I had to get back to my regularly scheduled life, which was working with kids for real and not just on TV talking about them. I said no for about a year at least to this group that was asking me to consider the show. Finally, my publicist said just listen to what they had to say and I said okay, fine. They told me at first that it wasn’t going to be just like (regular) TV and that it was going to be real life changing. They said it would specifically deal with African American boys throughout the country. Also they said it was going to make it possible for more people to learn from some of the techniques that we use as social workers so these people can save their own children. And that was what pushed me over the top. That plus they said we would film on the weekends and it wouldn’t have to get in the way of my (regular) work. That was the deal. But then it all made sense that it was with TVOne. I have a lot of respect for TVOne. I believe they ultimately want to put out positive black images.

Steve Perry filming an episode of “Save My Son.” Photo courtesy of TV One.

Q: Why are African American males so vulnerable to falling under bad influences? And why do young black males get into trouble even when they come from more well-off homes?

PERRY: A young man in my office has two well-educated, professional parents. He is black male and dealing with issues of having (marijuana) on him. Sometimes the resources actually make it easier for them to do stupid things. I think African American boys as a group are really in need of some support. And we are in the fourth quarter of a game that we’re losing. And the game is for the life of our black boys.  One of the reasons for this is that fathers are gone in the black community. They just don’t exist as viable, regular contributors to the ultimate well-being of our communities. Then of course the fact they are left with moms who very often are very willing to do whatever or say whatever to make sure their son doesn’t get into trouble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to essentially fight with a mother to discipline her child.

Q: How does your social work background help you on “Save My Son”?

PERRY: The most important degree I have is a MSW. It has trained the desire I have to engage people where they are. It has shown me how to understand that the way to understand is to ask questions first. To get a keen understanding of what is going on and then be resourceful. Constantly my mind is on fire attempting to strategize about what we’re doing.

Q: Can parents who do not have children in trouble still learn from the program?

PERRY: It’s essential for other parents. Even if your kid is doing well there are going to be behaviors that you’re going to see in some of these kids that you are also going to see in your kids because they are teenagers and you need to know what that means.

Q: Your program focuses on young black males. Have you been criticized for not including young African American women on the show?

PERRY: I have. I have gotten that. But right now this is where where I am. It doesn’t mean we won’t save our daughters, too. But right now the boys need the most saving.

Want to learn more about how social workers help young people overcome life’s hurdles and succeed? Visit the National Association of Social Workers “Help Starts Here” Kids and Families website by clicking here.

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21 Comments

  1. I also have my MSW and am working in a public school system with young people. Many of whom are African American and Latino. Most are far behind academically and at risk for dropping out and/or heading towards incarceration.
    I have watched Dr. Perry’s show and am so pleased that he is bringing attention to the issues that our young males are facing. I am more proud than ever to be a Social Worker. Social Workers Rock!!

  2. Hello, i am a single parent of 4 children, 2 sons who are 17 and the other son is 18 years of age. My sons have both made not so good decisions about school, being 100 percent respectful, and are lacking to complete the 12th grade in May 2012. I am requesting to be contacted from someone who can possible help the Lord and I to SAVE MY SONS before it’s too late. My 17 year old son Jermal is a very smart and intelligent kid, who was a part of the MAN UP Organization at a local school in Dallas, started working for Eddie Dean’s Catering Company through the MAN UP Organization, and was posted in the front page of the Dallas Morning News as a mentor. Jermal is now a Senior at a Dallas school and works at Fiesta Grocery Store however, he has faced several truancy issues that have caused him to become disrespectful at times and this is NOT acceptable in my house. My 18 year old son Jerry, is suppose to be a senior at a Dallas school but has faced school learning difficulties since 3rd grade however, Jerry has NOT tried to apply himself, or loose his very negative attitude about life in general. Jerry needs 9 credits, to be considered a senior, and has YET made progress in doing so. Jerry’s attitude has worsened over the last past year and he needs HELP. Please help me, SAVE MY SONS.

    Respectfully,
    Ms. Figures

  3. HELLO MY NAME IS KIM SMITH AND I’M RIGHTING ON BEHALF OF MY STEP DAUGHTER SHE DOSENT HAVE A COMPUTER OR THE INTERNET SHE IS 30 YRS OLD AND THE MOTHER OF 6 AND SHE IS IS A SINGLE PARENT DOING THIS ALL ON HER OWN HER 9 YR OLD IS SO OUT OF CONTROL AND CAUSES PROBLEMS DAILY HE GETS KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL AND IS VERY DISRESPECTFUL TO HIS MOTHER SHE REALLY NEED HELP COULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME AN EMAIL AND LET ME KNOW IF YOU CAN HELP WE LIVE IN GRAND RAPIDS MICH MY HOME PHONE IS 616 551-1699

  4. to whom it may concern:
    i in need to talk to someone about the problems i’m going through.please help me save my son.i really need your help.pumpkin29941@yahoo.com

  5. Do you have programs in Ohio?

  6. do you have programs in south carolina?

  7. I am a mom an I need to talk an speak with someone about my so I am in need of your help by me living here in Chicago an the gangs that is here i cant get my son to finish school they have jump him on the bus an i need to talk with someone an get help if possible in desperate need of help if can please get in touch with me ASAP an i will be checking my email everyday to c if u get back in touch
    PLEASE CAN SOMEONE HELP ME an yes i am a single mother

  8. I am single mother an i need help whit my son his is 16 year old his dad is lockup for life he don”t want to do what i say do he talk back to me an i can”t do it no more i try talking to him about school i thank he is in a gangs …so can someone please HELP ME this is my number404-749-0266an this is my email Kimberlywilliams659@yahoo.com thank you

  9. To the commenters above:

    Dr. Perry will have a live chat at 10 p.m. Eastern after tonight’s episode where you can ask him questions.

    Go to this link: Ustream.tv/channel/SaveMySon

    Greg Wright
    Senior Public Relations Specialist
    National Association of Social Workers

  10. I just want to say thank you to Dr. Steve Perry and TVOne for doing such great work. It takes a village but defintelty takes a man to save our sons. Kudos!

  11. I WOULD LOVE TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT SOME OF THE PROBLEMS I AM HAVING WITH MY SON. I JUST NEED SOMEONE TO JUST SIT AND TALK MORE SO LISTEN TO THE STRUGGLES THAT WE ARE GOING THROUGH. PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA EMAIL OR TELEPHONE 772-507-7842 I WOULD LIKE HELP WITH MY FAMILY.

  12. My name is Kisha , I’m a mother of 3 two daughters 15,13 ,and my son is 7 he is a great kid I promise smart, intelligent,and sweet at times. The problem is that he has a anger or behavioral problem he does well in school academically pretty good grads to be in second grad he reads well,but there is a problem that I feel I allowed to happen his dad and I fought all the time I actually when into labor fighting his dad on July 2 005 . I had never been in an abusive relationship until I met his dad we didn’t know Anything about each other before we became parents to this little bot . I stayed in this relationship until just recently I feel like its my fault my son is so angry and upset because I move out of state and he is mo longer 5 or 15 mins away from him were 6 hours away now and he has gotten to the point where he say he hate’ s this and that he has been suspended for fighting well actually chocking another student and after Being stopped by teacher he tried to over power the reach to get the child again I called his dad and told him what happened I over heard him saying he was proud then my son goes on to tell him what he would do the next time he he got in a fight I can go on and one but hears the bug issue I now have a new boyfriend whom I plane to marry , he has a son as well ,he’s 9 sweet kid respectful and all that ans I just gave him permission to be the regulator I mean he has stepped up to be a father figure and do to my son being his dads child he tells sad everything and some things are as they are but now dad is very upset and angry so much more to the story I just want to know if you can help me save my seven year old son I don’t need tv just help thanks for listening and excuse any typing errors lost ans confused but I refuse to give up he’s my only son he could be our next president!!! Thanks again

  13. Hello, My name Geraldine, Baltimore, MD; a single parent of two sons age 28 (grown& on his own) and 16. My 16 year old is a child that’s having sexual identified and behavioral issues. His problem is understanding who he is. So I’m the person he attacks with attitude, rebellion and behavioral issues. I have finally got him to go to school but he doesn’t come straight home from school. He’s out all evening. And the weekends he stay out all night without calling. There is no man reflections in his life. He feels the need not to communicate with me during the day. This past year I had been accused of child abuse, been charged. Which didn’t happen, it’s a allegation he stated just to not to follow rules in the household. He’s run away. He back talks me and yells at the top of his lungs over me. Disobeys all rules and regulations of my home. I been so stressed out that I just got out the hospital with stroke symptoms 2 days ago. Just this morning, there was a shouting match on my front with him calling me Crazy….all because I won’t give him money….to get to school when he had a bus pass to get to school. I have try counseling, drug counseling for weed smoking, therapy, etc. I am so lose for solutions. I have watch several of your show which inspired me to found way to contact your program. If you can found a way to work me to improved my relationship with my son. And show him there more to life them being a follower to negative people. Education is my number one mission for him so that he can better he’s life. The world is in the hands of the holder. I just want him to reach for the highest stars.Hope and pray you can HELP……..thanks………..

  14. Hi Dr. Steve Perry,

    I’m actually writing to you on behalf of my sister. My sister has been raising her (grand) son since he was born. She is now 65 years old and he is currently 17 years. My sister really needs a “save my son” type of intervention for her grandson. Her grandson is headed down the wrong path of life quickly and I’m truly concerned about my sister’s well being. Could you please, please help me help the one and only sister I have and of course try to save my great nephew’s life? I have provided my name and email address for contact purposes.

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Debbie Bryant

  15. Hello my name is Starita Feliz. I live in California and I was wondering if you had any programs in Northern California for my son. He’s 12 years old in the 7th grade with bad grades, attitude , talking back, lazy, doesn’t listen. I’m a single parent trying to raise him to the best of my ability and the punishments I give him are not working. I’m calling out for help because I don’t want my son to go down the wrong path as he gets older. So could you please get back to me with any information to help my son.

    Sincerely,

    Starita Feliz

  16. Dr. Perry are there any support help right here in Texas. I really need help with my 21 year old son.

  17. Hi my name is laura i am a single mother of five.Iam trying hard to seek some help for my 16 year old son he’s into the streets real heavy….he doesnt do good in school …Tells me hes not afraid to die…My son is just into the streets,IM N FEAR FOR HIS LIFE ITS ALOT MORE BUT IM SCARED TO POST SUCH YHINGS N IM N NEED OF HELP BAD WE LIVED N BALTIMORE MARYLAND..If u have any place that will help please let me know…thank u

  18. Hi my name is Gay Miller and I am trying to contact Dr. Perry in regards to my grandson. I have lost hope in the judicial system because they will not assist us with the help that we need for this child. He is a troubled child that is in desperate need of help now and not next week or next year but now. If something is not done soon with him he is headed for death or prison for the rest of his life. He has killed and mutilated all of our pets, he physically and mentally has done despicable things to his younger siblings, he has been put out of every school in the school district and he is only 14 years old. I see a tragedy in the making and soon, I have endured tragedy before in my family whereas my eldest daughter accidentally killed my mother husband in a dispute and I can see this all over again and need to do something to prevent this from happening again in my family. I can on and on with the things that this child has done and never stop. PLEASE have Dr. Perry or his staff contact me at (253) 324-4909 so that we can further discuss my grandson PLEASE lost and just do not know what to do PLEASE HELP ME.

    DESPERATELY IN NEED OF HELP,

    Gay Miller

  19. Please I need help with my son if someone can get in touch with me I will really appreciate it!! Thank you soo much

  20. Has anyone ever contacted you about me? My life seems to be a complete reality show and only I am being kept in the dark except that now I am at the point where I have found out, just can’t find the right outlet to break free.

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