Participants thank Division of Adult Parole Operations for guidance
By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications
The Female Offender Treatment and Employment Program (FOTEP) in Fair Oaks held its first graduation for 12 female offenders who have completed the program and are headed back to their own communities. This time though, they’ll have the rehabilitative tools and support that they didn’t have before their incarceration.
The FOTEP is a reentry facility that focuses on intensive, gender-responsive counseling services that encourages recovery and employment success. The FOTEPs offer a unique opportunity for female parolees to have their children, up to age 12, reside with them as they go through the program. This helps provide a chance for family reunification and for the female parolee to have a support group as she reconnects with her children.
There were a total of 12 females who graduated from the Fair Oaks FOTEP, seven of whom received their certificates at an awards ceremony held at the New Life Church in Fair Oaks. The church graciously hosted and catered the event for the females, their families and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Center Point staff. In total, the women completed 313 months in the program based on individual requirements.
“Several of the participants have graduated with their GEDs while in the program,” said Parole Agent II Deborah Shoup. Next semester, one of the graduates is ready to attend California State University, Sacramento.
A lot of hope filled the room as the counselors read off the accomplishments of the participants before receiving their award. Many of the women had clearly gone through a lot of struggles to make it to their graduation and, ultimately, their sobriety and rehabilitation. They all thanked CDCR Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) staff and the Center Point staff who facilitate the program.
“Agent Shoup drove me six hours one way to go see (my daughter), I love her for that. Parole has been awesome. All the Center Point staff are amazing, each one of the staff has gone out of their way to support me to succeed,” Erika, one of the FOTEP participants, said.
She also went on to thank the support from the local community and New Life Church who she credits for helping her transition from the FOTEP to the community.
“For a year the New Life Church has welcomed me to this community with open arms and they’ve been a huge support and they furnished my apartment,” Erika said. “When you have someone like me who comes from my kind of background, I just want to thank them for their support.”
Erika remained diligent about creating a life she and her daughter deserve. She is maintaining her sobriety and has gained full-time employment.
Another FOTEP graduate, Ashley, finished the program and has reunited with her two children. She looks forward to attending her son’s football games and being present with her children. She will also be attending American River College next semester.
FOTEP Counselor Joanne Belaire-Lewis told the graduates, “the best thing you can do for your children is show up and be consistent, you’re on the right track.”
Parole Agent III Deborah Shoup lauded Belaire-Lewis’ dedication to the FOTEP and to the women who participate. “She’s one of the best treatment counselors I’ve had the blessing to work with in these programs over the past 15 years and a true asset to this program.”
The female parolees use the time they have in the program enrolling in school or finding gainful employment. Sue, a described quiet and very determined woman, was able to get her life on the right track while in the program. She worked two jobs at one point and now has a full-time job that will help provide her with stability after she leaves the program.
Another noted group at the graduation were the families of the participants.
“I have put my family through even more than I even realize,” said Janice, a short-term participant.
“Your families are here still standing by you and standing strong,” Belaire-Lewis said. “A lot of people don’t have that. A lot of parolees’ families have kicked them to the curb.”
Parole Agent Shoup and Parole Agent Cheryl Howard have put in blood, sweat and tears into the FOTEP and are hailed as people who believe in the program, the women and their capabilities.
“It would be virtually impossible to (run the program) without these two staff. They have picked up women, taken them to visit their families and help prepare for their successful reentry, taking them to their appointments. It has been incredible,” FOTEP Counselor Belaire-Lewis said.
As much as the staff care for the women, the ultimate goal is to never see them again, at least not under these types of circumstances.
“You don’t ever have to go back to that side,” Agent Shoup told the women. “You can keep moving forward. Always reach out and never ever, ever, ever give up.”