Morning Zen

How Do We SEE and SUPPORT Children of Incarcerated Parents

November 28, 2021

How do we SEE and SUPPORT?

Maybe it’s the language we use, saying “parent” rather than “inmate” or “prisoner.”

Maybe it’s doing a Mother’s Day check in with a child whose mother is in jail.

Maybe it’s asking the re-entry providers in our communities to include children and families in the re-entry conversation if they’re not already.

Maybe it’s how we can add books about children of incarcerated parents to our school and community libraries, and then making sure children and families know about the books.

Maybe it’s us checking in with our schools, child care centers, after-school programs, faith communities (including those involved with jail and prison ministries), Departments of Social Services, and other organizations working with children and families to see if they have the tools, resources, and information needed to support children whose parents are in jail or prison or returning home.

Maybe it’s a willingness to ask a child about his parent and their relationship: not the gossipy details about the crime, the arrest, or their jail or prison stay, but about what a child misses, his favorite memories, and the fact that he still loves their parent.

Maybe it’s asking what “seeing” and “supporting” can and should look like for the almost 17,000 children here in North Carolina who are facing the reality of having a parent in prison (with numerous more with a parent in jail or returning home after being incarcerated), with the challenges of a pandemic adding to what is already a potentially difficult situation. What can we do to see and support them (and their parents)?

Launched in 2015 by the Osborne Association’s New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents (NYCIP), See Us, Support Us (SUSU) raises awareness and increases support for children of incarcerated parents. SUSU is a year-round effort with national partners, culminating in a month of action in October. This October, the campaign focused on supporting children’s educational success and wellbeing from early childhood through college.

SUSU aims to decrease stigma, build community, share supportive resources, and celebrate children who thrive and succeed when we SEE and SUPPORT them.

As a North Carolina statewide education and advocacy program focused on community support for children of incarcerated and returning parents, we invite you to join with folks across the state (and in some cases, across the country) who are taking these action steps in October and beyond:

  • Explore the SUSU – It’s not just for educators! Professionals (paid, volunteer, and those in training), families, and community members will find helpful resources there. The site is “live” throughout the year, so you’re not limited to checking out the resources just in October.
  • Share the site with the educators in your life. This includes teachers and teacher assistants, principals, counselors, social workers, nurses, coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, afterschool program providers . . . be creative in thinking about who you can share the link with! We’d love to hear about your sharing.

We want to make sure “educational” goes beyond schools and individual classrooms to include the community as a whole, including libraries.

  • Invite Our Children’s Place to present a workshop to your organization. Check out this map on our website to see if we’ve already presented in your community. Let’s work to shade in those blank counties!

While you’re at it, check out our regular Facebook and Twitter posts where we’ll share helpful tips each week in October, along with our regular information sharing about groups we’re presenting to, new books (we just updated the book lists on our website: go to Resources, then drop down to Books) and research, articles we read and programs we’ve learned about, and so much more. If you’d like to receive those tips via email, simply send us your email address.

Are there ways you could create opportunities for youth to share their stories and experiences? Contact us if you’d like to brainstorm!

  • Forward this information to your elected officials and community leaders. Encourage them to learn more, ask questions, and seek out additional information.
  • Print SUSU signs (we have some), pass them out to your co-workers to hold up during a staff meeting, then take a photo (or screen shot if you’re virtual), and share on social media and with us.
  • Add resources about supporting children of incarcerated and returning parents to your organization’s website. Let us know how we can help!
  • Tell us what actions you’re taking. We’d love to hear more and share with others!

We know these are just a few of the numerous steps (some small, some bigger) we can take as individuals, organizations, and communities to SEE and SUPPORT children (OUR children) with incarcerated and returning parents in October and throughout the year. What are you doing or thinking about doing? Please join us in creating a community where the children are recognized, supported (rather than shamed and stigmatized), and encouraged to share their stories.

Our Children’s Place of Coastal Horizons is a statewide program committed to the children of incarcerated and returning parents. We strive to be the leading North Carolina advocate and educational resource focused on the children and the need for a statewide response to ensure their well-being.

Explore More Posts
About the Author

Melissa Radcliff

Melissa Radcliff has been with Our Children’s Place of Coastal Horizons Center based in Wilmington, NC since February 2007. Our Children’s Place is a statewide education and advocacy program focused on children of incarcerated parents. Prior to that she was the Executive Director and a founding staff member of the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County (now the Compass Center for Women and Families), the local domestic violence agency serving Orange County, NC. She has worked in the area of victim services since the 1990s at a domestic violence agency, rape crisis center, prosecutor’s office, and police department in Rhode Island, Arizona, and North Carolina. She serves as chair of the Pre-Release Committee for the Orange Correctional Center, a minimum security men’s prison facility located in Hillsborough, NC.

Explore More Posts