Juvenile court magistrate’s childhood helps her relate

Mom and Dad started screaming at each other — again — in the other room.

The sounds of slamming and slapping punctuated the shouts, scaring the two little girls, who could hear everything. Trembling, they reached for the phone, dialed 911 and immediately hung up.

The police called back, and the girls answered right away: “No, no, we didn’t call.”

The ringing phone stopped the fight that time in their modest home in a poor part of Kalamazoo, Mich.

But the girls, Jennifer, 7, and her older sister, Sheneeka, 10, fled the house nearly every time Daddy came home drunk and raised his voice.

“Lots of times, my mom said, ‘We’ve gotta go! We’ve gotta go!’ ” says Jennifer Wade, now a magistrate for Metro’s juvenile court.

She is saddened at memories of domestic violence, a drunk father, the divorce that happened when she was in third grade.

The experiences, though, help her connect to many of the children and teens who appear before her.

“My upbringing helps me remember those kids have an experience every day like I did — an absent parent, an abusive parent, an addicted parent or no parent at all,” Wade said. “They all bring that experience with them.”

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