“Respect is something that does not need to be earned. I want everyone around me to feel respected and valued. I try to treat people how I would like to be treated and treat people how they would like to be treated if that has been communicated to me” – Matthew Peterson
FabNewport is very excited to welcome Matthew Peterson to our Board of Directors.
Matthew is the Adoption Program Director at Child & Family Services of New Bedford, MA where his focus is achieving permanency for children in MA DCF custody. Matthew graduated from Salve Regina University in 2014 with a MS in the Administration of Justice and Homeland Security and brings over a decade of child welfare experience. While pursuing his graduate degree, Matthew began working in a residential treatment facility for children who had experienced abuse and/or neglect. It was during this time Matthew discovered his passion for empowering youth and improving the lives of families. Matthew’s time working in residential treatment culminated in overseeing the agency’s entire residential treatment network which included seven programs, forty-five youth and over seventy staff members. Since then, Matthew has continued to demonstrate his commitment to youth development by piloting an evidence based teen foster care program in the state of RI, assessing kinship foster homes for DCYF and working in the Providence school system as the Director of Behavioral Supports. Throughout, his leadership has focused on outcome driven program development, stakeholder engagement, trauma informed care, and innovative solutions strengthening child welfare practice.
How would you describe your journey, professionally and personal, as of today?
I would describe my professional journey as accidentally finding my passion and purpose. When I entered college at seventeen years old, I had no clue who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. I was following the path that was told to me; “Go to college, get a degree and get a job.” When I was offered the opportunity to enter the five-year master’s program, my only thought was that I was going to get to play football for one more year. Two shoulder surgeries in less than a year altered my identity, forcing me to begin to answer the question “Who am I?” much sooner than I had anticipated. Within a week I went from Matthew Petersen who plays football and is studying administration of justice, to Matthew Petersen working to achieve a degree I had no interest in and applying to jobs that I could not imagine myself making a career of. I felt lost.
In February of 2013 while I was finishing graduate school, I began working at a residential treatment facility for eight boys between the ages of eight and thirteen. I loved it! A shift never felt like work to me. I felt like I was getting paid to be an older brother. It felt natural and my worst days never deterred me from coming back the next day. I cherished the relationships that I built with both the staff and the children. It is still my favorite job to this day because it is where I fell in love with social work.
I never anticipated social work to be where I would end up, I believe everything happens for a reason. In fact, on two occasions I moved all my belongings back to Connecticut anticipating moving home. However, each time I attempted to move back to Connecticut I received a promotion. It was in May of 2016 when I was promoted to oversee all the agency’s residential facilities; it was at this time I began to see myself continuing this career path. And the rest is history!
What’s your connection with FabNewport?
My connection to FabNewport starts with the shared core value of respect, which is my number one value. Respect is something that does not need to be earned. I want everyone around me to feel respected and valued. I try to treat people how I would like to be treated and treat people how they would like to be treated if that has been communicated to me.
Relationships & Trust – this is the foundation of all the work I have ever done in my career with children, with families, with partners, and with the people I work with. We build relationships by communicating and spending time with one another. It is through those interactions you learn to trust. This is especially important with children. If a child has learned that I am someone they can rely on, someone that will be there for them, someone they can talk to, someone who will offer honest advice but allow them to make their own decisions, someone who will listen and not judge – then we can build trust.
What sealed the deal for me was the day I toured the summer camp. Some of my fondest memories as an adolescent were of my times spent at summer camps. Walking into the gymnasium took me back to those days where I was making new friends, trying new activities, figuring out I was good at one thing and not so good at another – but overall, I felt safe. Like the people around me cared about me, like I was safe to explore, to make mistakes and to learn.
How do you see yourself as a “maker?”
I see my role as a “maker” with FabNewport as a continuation of this thread; helping to make opportunities for children by eliminating barriers to equitable resources and opportunities to allow them to thrive and become makers of their own.
What are you bringing to FabNewport?
I am bringing Energy, Enthusiasm, and Dedication!
I am also bringing a trauma-informed lens to the work we do with young people which already fits within the values and goals of FabNewport. Trauma Informed Care has five guiding principles; safety, trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment. The idea is to create a safe environment where trust is established with self, peers and adults. Where there is freedom to explore, try new things and make mistakes without fear of judgement. A place where a young person feels empowered to accomplish anything they set their mind to, and they have the community behind them in full support. When a young person has that, anything is possible!
What are you looking forward to and hope to see as the future of FabNewport?
I look forward to Learners and their families reaping the benefits of a community ecosystem that works to invest in them holistically. A community ecosystem that is mindful of our differences and places value in the inherent worth and dignity of each learner. I’m hopeful that, together, we can see FabNewport at the forefront of developing long lasting relationships with stakeholders in the community to make a more equitable future for our learners.