Before Jennifer Overstreet gave birth to her daughter, she didn’t give much thought to the many issues that families of children with disabilities face in the state of Alabama.
Today, Overstreet is a far cry from where she was 25 years ago. Recently named the new office coordinator for the CRS office in Jackson, she oversees a small office of six staff who maintain the caseloads for approximately 330 families in Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, and Monroe Counties.
“Jessica was born with spina bifida,” Overstreet said. “At the time, I was a young and naïve stay-at-home mom. After my daughter was enrolled in Early Intervention and CRS, my perspective on children with special needs quickly and forever changed. I was motivated to learn more, and shortly thereafter, I decided to go back to school to pursue a career in nursing.”
Overstreet admits her personal experience with her daughter makes her uniquely qualified to perform her job to the best of her abilities.
“As the mother of a child with special health care needs,” she said, “my views changed on a lot of things. I think most important, though, is the feeling of acceptance and love. It was in CRS clinic where I first felt acceptance and love as a mother of a child with a disability, and that experience shaped who I am as a person. I know I haven’t always felt that love and acceptance, so knowing what it meant to me personally, I always ensure our families are shown the compassion and love they deserve.”
Overstreet said that overseeing an office is a huge step for her to take in her career, but one that she feels will ultimately make her a better person.
She attributes her strong working relationship with Tonya Beech, who left the Jackson office to become the district supervisor in Mobile, as a primary reason she sought the promotion to office coordinator.
“I first got to know Tonya well when my daughter was in the fourth grade,” said Overstreet, who has been with CRS since 2001. “Because our daughters were friends, Jessica was invited over to their house to spend the night. I was apprehensive, but Tonya told me I had nothing to worry about, that Jessica would be in very good hands at their house, and she could personally meet her every health care need overnight. Interestingly enough, all this took place as I was graduating from nursing school. That connection with Tonya led me to my career with CRS.”
Overstreet said that this department means everything to both her and her daughter. Jessica, who is now 25, currently works in a salon as a nail technician after successfully completing a manicuring program with assistance from VR.
“This entire department works so hard to make people be all that they can be,” said Overstreet. “Through the years, ADRS has helped my daughter reach her goals, and it is truly great to be a part of an organization that means so much to so many people. Through all of the phases of life, we represent freedom to the people we serve. I’m going to keep serving our families in the best way possible, and I’m humbled to serve the department in a greater capacity through my new position.”