After consulting, teaching and leading child development programs across the country, Frederick Ferrer stepped into the role of CEO at the Child Advocates of Silicon Valley in late February
Ferrer said the organization presents him with an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Silicon Valley’s most vulnerable residents — at-risk kids. But for Ferrer, there was never an “a-ha” moment that lead to his career path. He always knew he wanted to serve others, and he felt the best way to do that was by working with kids.
He remembers being particularly inspired by President Lyndon Johnson’s “Head Start,” a comprehensive government program predicated on the belief that the best way to help children in need is by investing in opportunities for their families. Ferrer has held that belief as a framework for much of his career.
“I was to become a person for others,” said Ferrer. “That took light in the work that I did and the career I pursued.”
The program operates by recruiting and matching volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) with foster children in dependency court. The goal of the CASA is to be there for the child and provide support while they’re at the whim of the court.
Once appointed, the CASAs become a short-term guardian for the foster child. They can take the foster child out to see a movie, go to a baseball game or simply just pick them up from school. In 2018 alone, the Child Advocates have supported nearly 700 volunteer CASAs, and they in turn have served a little more than 900 foster children.
“It’s incumbent on us to develop these experiences [for the children],” Ferrer said, “The question is; how can we get the kids back on track as quickly as we can?”
Ferrer, who previously served as the CEO of the Health Trust, joins the organization with two main goals in mind. The first is to raise money and increase staff to maintain the growth the organization has seen the past decade. The second is to establish lasting partnerships with other community programs in the area. This will help the organization expand its ability to train and support CASAs, Ferrer said, and to be a part of a wider support network for those in need in the Silicon Valley.
“Fred brings a lot of experience to the position,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who’s known Ferrer for more than 20 years and has focused on foster youth during her time on the county board. “He’s joining a really strong organization, and paired with his strengths as an operative thinker, they will make it an even more robust system for the Silicon Valley.”
After graduating with a Masters in Counseling Psychology at San Jose State University, Ferrer spent much of his early career promoting community and action opportunities in the Santa Clara County. Working with immigrant families through Gardener in the Willow Glen neighborhood (now known as Estrella Family Services), Ferrer developed an understanding of the situational patterns that help — or hinder — the success of families in tough situations.
In 1998, Ferrer founded Manzanita Solutions, a national consulting firm focused on family leadership and early childhood education, before leading The Health Trust for ten years. He helped lead the foundation in its goal toward health equity, which Ferrer views as an inseparable aspect of child development. Coming to CASA of Silicon Valley seemed like the natural next step in his career.
The position may bring him to a new chapter in his career, but Ferrer maintains that he’s driven by the same goals as when he began. No matter the situation, Ferrer said, it’s always about empowering children and their families.
“Silicon Valley is one of the healthiest communities in the world,” said Ferrer. “Making the healthiest healthier was never the goal. If I were to improve the health of the most vulnerable, that would be a success.”
Contact San José Spotlight intern Yale Wyatt at [email protected] or follow @yalewhat on Twitter.