Spotlight: Susan Galeas, President and CEO of The Family Center

By Landon Funk

Susan is a bleeding-heart feminist… probably since birth.  When she was younger, her mother used to say, “Susan, Southern women speak softly… lower you voice.”  At some point in late grade school, she replied to this regular admonition with, “Mommy, I’m either not Southern or not a lady. I just can’t speak softly.”

If you identify as a female and are from the south, this is something that you have heard often and by people you love and respect. It stings. The only way to make it better is to accept that you are different - and different is good.  

Susan figured out that she can be both southern lady and speak her mind when she attended Loyola New Orleans, receiving her undergraduate degree. She went on to receive her Masters of Social Work and her Masters of Public Health from Tulane. Still, she claims that most of her studies came through the "school of life" which offered her the best education possible. 

No matter how busy she was “working,” Susan always found time to volunteer for children’s causes.  After earning her Masters’ degrees in Social Work & Public Health, she realized that she could make an even bigger impact if her “work” followed her passion for giving back. Susan's work today takes her full circle back to her passion for helping children at risk for trauma. She was the President and CEO of Alzheimer's Greater Los Angeles for six and a half years and is now the President and CEO of the Family Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The Family Center’s mission is breaking multi-generational cycles of child abuse, neglect, and trauma.  The mission has evolved over the organization’s thirty-two years of existence to better meet the needs of at risk children and their families.

Their clients include:

  • Parents at risk of losing custody of their children
  • Parents currently in or coming out of substance abuse facilities or jails who need to rebuild connections with their children
  • Parents and children struggling with some type of trauma (parental death, hostile divorce, abuse, neglect, poverty, racism, discrimination, bullying) that is negatively affecting a child’s ability to be resilient
  • New parents who just want to learn effective parenting, parents learning to co-parent with an ex or a new spouse

The Family Center also works within systems like jails and courts, increasing awareness about the negative long-term health and mental health outcomes of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and how to integrate Trauma Informed Cultures. In doing so, the jail and court staff interacting with high ACE adults are helping, rather than hurting, clients.

Today, the Family Center serves families - parents and children - through partner schools and nonprofits within higher risk communities across Davidson and Rutherford Counties. They have a tiered program that offers parents a greater choice and voice in skill building, self-awareness, and inclusion of their children:

  • Positive Parenting - parents participate in eight weeks of group sessions
  • Nurturing Family - children’s component with a curriculum that mirrors what the parents are learning and creates greater bonding and connectivity after group
  • Nurturing Home - in home option where families can identify and intensify work in specific areas through observation and coaching by one of our masters level staff
  • Co-Parenting - a four hour session for parents who are co-parenting while living in separate homes (never married, separated, divorced)

The Family Center advocates on behalf of those we serve by being ambassadors for legislation that impacts our clients and by working within systems for higher risk families to help integrate “trauma informed cultures” to increase positive outcomes and reduce recidivism rates.

Susan and her staff at the Family Center are dedicated to increasing community awareness of and engagement around ACE avoidance and the values of help children become the best they can be. As humans, we are constantly learning and growing through our past experiences and willingness to embrace new opportunities and others’ ideas. 

I don't know about you, but I think Susan has harnessed her voice, making her one hell of a Southern lady. It warms my heart to know that Susan inspires women, girls, men, boys, and everyone else that being Southern and a lady can be synonymous with speaking your mind and having a voice.