Person of the Week: Fred Gruber helps kids alone in the system find their way to homes

(WXYZ) - A forever home: It's what every child deserves and longs for, especially when you're in foster care.

But there are people in our community who go above and beyond to save kids who are forgotten.

So we want to shine the light on Fred Gruber.

He helped found the Michigan Law Center in Detroit, and he's not just an advocate for foster care children, he's a champion for young people who often times find themselves powerless to fight for themselves.

So many pictures tell the story of a man who cares deeply about children, and he's not afraid to do battle for young people who find themselves forgotten, by family, by loved ones and a system meant to protect them.

Fred Gruber says, "There are cases where we see parents who have lost custody of their children, their rights have been terminated and they're back two years later in court with newborns."

Many are among the thousands who wait day in and day out in Michigan, hoping to be returned home or adopted and placed with a forever family, but the wait can be long and difficult.

Gruber says, "Parents don't always follow their treatment plan, parents don't always get off their drugs preferring those habits than having their children back."

Wayne County has 25 percent of all neglect cases, that 's more than the other 83 counties in the entire state, and Gruber says, there's no other county that comes close.

That's why he helped found the Michigan Law Center in 2004.

He and a group of 28 attorneys represent neglected children and those charged with delinquent behavior at the Wayne County Juvenile Court.

Gruber says, "Almost 12 years later, we estimate we've been involved in over 21,000 cases, representing children of neglect and delinquency."

Gruber uses his power and his voice to fight for kids who cannot fight for themselves. His wish always is to reunite children with their parents, but if that's impossible, he hopes to find an adoptive parent.

Pamela McLean Reyes says, "I want to be part of the solution, I wanted to help siblings stay together."

At only 7 months and 22 months, two young girls were placed in foster care. Their lives were uncertain, until Reyes came along and decided to give them a forever home through adoption.

Reyes says, "They were in another home for a month and that person asked for them to be removed. How many houses would they have been in?"

Always wanting to adopt and as a twin herself she couldn't imagine siblings being torn apart. She says the risk is worth it to help children be part of the solution.

That solution is what Fred works toward.

He awards college scholarships to disadvantaged young people who need a hand up to succeed. One such person is Blanca Rosa Centeno, she's a student at Wayne State University now, but as a child she was abused and neglected by her own mother and siblings.

The system failed Blanca.

Blanca says as a child she didn't know what a foster system was or how to be a part of the system. Blanca says she was tormented at home, her crime being different.

When she finally landed in juvenile detention after a fight with her mom, she said she finally felt safe.

When Gruber learned of her horrific story, he wanted to help and awarded her one of the Law Center's 4 annual college scholarships.

Gruber says, "This was a child who, after her father died, was emotionally and physically abused by her mother and siblings."

Gruber and his wife have written a book about bullying and even have a CD filled with songs about neglect, bullying and forever homes. The proceeds from the sale of both help fund the work at the Michigan Law Center.

And without people like Fred Gruber leading the charge, the need would be even greater.

That's why we choose Fred Gruber as our Person of the Week.

Print this article Back to Top