Hosts Kristen DeVall, Ph.D. & Christina Lanier, Ph.D. welcome Melissa Radcliff, Program Director at Our Children's Place of Coastal Horizons Center, for discussion regarding children of incarcerated parents (COIP). Listen as they discuss the data, related legislation, impacts on children, the involvement of law enforcement and other roles in COIP, and much more.
Dr. Christina L...: Welcome back to the Justice To Healing Podcast. I am Dr. Christina Lanier, one of the co-directors of The National Drug Court Resource Center. And with me today, I have the other co-director Dr. Kristen DeVall.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Hello.
Dr. Christina L...: We are excited today about our program. We have an excellent guest, Melissa Radcliff. She's the program director of Our Children's Place at Coastal Horizons Center. Welcome Melissa.
Melissa Radclif...: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to talk with the two of you.
Dr. Christina L...: So today we're kind of switching gears when it comes to the topic of Justice To Healing. Melissa is an expert in the area of working with children of incarcerated parents and also the parents of the children. So, Melissa, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in this area?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah, so I took this position and... almost by accident, which doesn't sound positive enough, but it was not necessarily a plan. I didn't wake up one day saying, "Gosh, I feel like I need to work or know more about children of incarcerated parents." Before this job, I was working as the director of a domestic violence agency in Orange County, took a bit of a break and got a call one day from a recruiter saying this organization had formed, they were looking for a director and they were interested in interviewing me and I thought... And I said to her, "I don't know anything about children of incarcerated parents," and at the time we were focused specifically on mothers. I said, "I don't know anything about incarcerated mothers." And she said, "Unfortunately, nobody does and we really, this group really feels like the experience you've had working mostly with women in the court system in domestic violence cases would make you a good candidate." So I interviewed once, I interviewed twice and here I am in this position and I have loved every minute of it.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: That's great. So kind of speaking about data, some work that we've done looking at just the number of children with incarcerated parents. So can you give us some of the data? To sort of lay the foundation.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah, so when I'm presenting to groups, I tend to focus on sort of our national numbers and then whatever we have in North Carolina. And then also thinking about what we have locally within our individual counties. So nationally, we're talking about 2.7 million children and which works out to one in 28 children. 2.7 million, I always say to folks, feels like a number that is hard to visualize, because I think for many of us, we don't have 2.7 million of anything. So it's hard to imagine what that looks like. But if we talk about any one particular day, one in 28 children has an incarcerated parent. I think for most folks, that is easier because I think in many cases, people think of a classroom and whether it's 28 kids in a classroom or if you imagine 28 seats in a classroom and then think about one child or one seat filled in each classroom.
And whenever I'm talking with professionals, I always challenge them to take that one in 28 and then imagine what that looks like in their school or their school district or their community. So it really brings it down to a place where I think people say, "Oh, these aren't just numbers. And they're not just big numbers and they're not just national numbers, they're actually numbers that have an impact and are relevant to our particular community." We are very fortunate, the Department of Public Safety, DPS, runs an annual report for us. They just call it their children's report, but it's essentially a point in time count where they pick a date, usually late January, early February, where they say, "How many of the men and women in prison on that day have self-reported they have minor children?" And the most recent number, so it'll be going on a year, it was the end of 2021, it's 16,775. So almost 17,000 children.
So on that particular day of the men and women in our prisons, they self-reported they had almost 17,000 minor children. And I always say it's a number with an asterisk because it's the best number we have, but it's not the best by far. And we can talk a little bit more about some of the limitations that we have on that particular number. What I think is interesting and it's the question that comes up on a regular basis is that we really don't know what the numbers look like within individual counties. So when the department of public safety runs that report, they don't... One of the questions is not, where are the children? We know where the parents are or where they came from, but we don't know where the kids are. And I think that can be a real disadvantage because then people can't say, "Oh, well in Durham County, it's net sum of kids or New Hanover Acts or Wake, whatever the case may be." So that's definitely a limitation is not knowing the breakdown based on individual counties.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Right. Yeah. And I think your analogy of the classroom is a good one. Again, to get people to sort of visualize what does this 2.7 million look like? So that's helpful. And so how has this number changed over time? You know, there's been a lot of talk about reducing the prison population and efforts in that regard. So do you have a sense of what this has looked like over time?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. So DPS has been running this report. I think it's probably eight or so you years now. So we do have a little bit of history to be able to see. And for several years, it did go up and then a couple of years it dropped slightly. And then the biggest drop we saw between 2020 and 2021, which is exciting, except if you think about it actually pretty much is pretty much parallels the drops in the prison population. So which again is, that's also probably a good thing, but to know that we still probably, percentage wise, have the same number of kids. It's just that the numbers in the prison, therefore the number of parents has dropped. So the number of kids have dropped.
What will be interesting to see, I think, is what happens when they run the 2022 report, if whether we'll see that level out or whether it will continue to drop depending on the prison population of that particular time. It's just, when we see a drop or an increase, you always wonder, is that a true drop, decrease or increase? Or is it how the questions are being asked and who's answering the questions. Because it's a self-reported number. So we all know that you can self-report or self not report. And if there are no consequences, then it just depends on a particular day or who was doing the intake, who was asking the questions, whether or not people chose to answer that.
So while I think we celebrate decreases, whether it's a true decrease or whether it's decrease based on the prison population, I do think you have to ask some questions about kind of what's behind the decrease. Do we actually have fewer children or is it other actors that we have to take into account? The other piece is that it doesn't include, which I say to folks all the time is, it doesn't include kids whose parents are in our jails or parents who are in a-
Dr. Christina L...: [inaudible].
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah, just our prison. So if you're a... I'm here in Durham, so my dad's sitting downtown in the Durham County jail, I'm not counted? Or if I have parents... parent or parents in a jail or prison outside of North Carolina or in the Federal System, I'm not counted. So again, best number we have, but not necessarily the best if we really think the numbers would increase significantly, if you started to include those other particular categories.
Dr. Christina L...: Right. For sure. And I mean, and I think, and we'll talk about this, I think a little bit later, but the environments of jail and prison being so different. And so when we talk about things like visitations and those types of issues, how do those reflect those environments of prison and jail and having perhaps less resources for visitation and those types of things in jails versus prison. So it's really that trickle down effect, depending on the location. We don't really know how many children there are with incarcerated parents in jail. And even if we do, what's actually happening if they are visiting those parents?
Melissa Radclif...: Right. Right. This conversation gets big and wide pretty fast because the questions about having a child are asked during intake when someone goes to prison. And if somebody has a concern about, and maybe prior experience with DSS, they might not disclose they have children for a fear their kids are going to be scooped up. And then child support factors in, and we may have a father who doesn't want to disclose of kids because of child support. So we think about it, it's just a matter of counting heads, but the reality is there's so many other things that factor into whether people feel like this is information they'd like to share and where it's going to go once they do share it.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. What's going to be done with the information.
Melissa Radclif...: Right. Right.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: That's an important consideration. Yeah.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: So I think the under-counting issue is really an interesting one because in my head, I keep thinking, is it one and 15? Is it one in 20? But again, something that we probably won't really know given the way the data is collected, as you've mentioned before, do we know or do we have any legislation that relates to this topic? I know, I'm just thinking about policy and policy changes and how can we go beyond the numbers let's say, is there legislation at various levels that relates to this topic?
Melissa Radclif...: I feel like there's been talk and possibly even introduced legislation at the various levels about the counting piece and who's responsible for it. In the past, DPS has said that that's not their responsibility because their thing is the parents, the adults. And then folks say, "Well, what about DSS?" Well, that's great except not all kids are involved with DSS. And then, "Well, what about our schools?" So I think the first piece of this is whose responsibility is it to gather that information, track those numbers, keep an ongoing count. And also to recognize that, "Gosh, we know this conversation's happening in a lot of other states." North Carolina's unique for lots of things, but this is not one of the things we're unique for. Other states are having similar conversations about that.
And I also think part of that conversation is we talk about one in 28 and then kind of breaking that down is that we need to have the conversation about this from a race perspective. That that's one in 28, that's sort of the whole group of kids, but when you start to break it down based on race, then the numbers get even more concerning as it reflects... A lot of the other conversations we're having about racial inequality and racial justice, and so many of other things that kind of connect in with that. And I also think a part of this is, I think you mentioned about, who's asking the question and then what's happening with the information? Simply we're checking a box or are we then able to offer families something kind of in exchange for, "You've shared this information, let us tell you about these amazing resources." as opposed to, "You've told us, thank you. We can now move on to page two of our checklists." And then families feeling like, "Well, why did I bother to share that if there's not going to be anything that results from it."
So kind of moving it from data collection, numbers, and then thinking about how do we support kids if families disclose that information and to whoever they disclose it to. And then also thinking, and I'm not a huge data person, but you get me up in a role here this morning is about kids whose parents were in prison or jail but aren't anymore, but know that those impacts can continue even when a parent's been released. So you think about parents have a criminal record and what does that mean in terms of housing and jobs and access to other services? And then again, how does that trickle down to kids? Right. So it's data collection, but it's also then starting to think about when the parents are released, what those numbers look like for kids and how those impacts can continue and for quite some time, depending on the particular situation.
Dr. Christina L...: That just brought to mind another question, has there been or do you know of, and any research that looks at, what's the impact on kids who have parents that are incarcerated?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. So I feel like my go-to for that is the Annie Casey Foundation. I mean, they have lots of research on a number of topics focused on kids and families, but have been doing research and producing reports for quite some time, specifically about children of incarcerated parents. And they're one of the organizations that really encourages folks to look at kids whose parents are incarcerated and then also the reentry piece. So what does it mean if you're no longer part of that almost 17,000, but your dad served three years in prison and has a felony record and having a hard time finding a job. Those are impacts that are going to continue for kids beyond that and whether that's kind of housing instability or financial instability and what that does for the stress of the house as a whole, what that means for kids.
Kids wondering, "Is my dad going to go back to jail or prison again?" Especially if they've seen that happen more than once kind of wondering if it's going to happen again, maybe being angry, like why can't my dad find a job? Why? Just, and maybe not even, depending on the situation, we may have a child who nobody told them that there're going to be restrictions on dad because dad has post release supervision and there are certain things he can and can't do. And we don't explain that to a child, then you may have a child wondering, "What's going on? Why can't my dad do this? Or why can't we have this happen? Or who is this person in our lives?" As opposed to saying, maybe we should sit down with that child and say, "Your dad's home, but here are some other restrictions that are still in place and this is how long it's going to happen. And this is what it's going to mean for us as a family."
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah, absolutely. I was thinking about just the trauma for the children as well when you were talking about here. Have they seen this happen?
Melissa Radclif...: Yap.
Dr. Christina L...: And we'll talk about resources and kind of what we need a little bit later, but I think that that hopefully, that is the key. And I know that... And you've talked to many groups, schools and families, and those types of things about out how to serve the children, which again, we'll talk about here briefly, but I think that... What is the impact on the child? And that's one of the reasons why Kristen and I really like to talk about this topic with you is because I'm sure that most people don't think about the children, right?
I mean, that's why Our Children's Place exists is to get people to think about, of course, this punitive approach to this person needs to be in prison because they're a bad person. Well, maybe me not. But regardless, what about their kids? And then thinking about how, I always think of school, how a child's behavior in school, that's the results of this trauma. And then these experiences can impact the other children, can impact the teacher, can impact their learning environment and how they move through school. So I think those are really key points for sure to think about.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. I mean the number one response that I get. And we, as you said, we present to professionals across professions and across the state. And the number one response I get is, "I have never thought about children of incarcerated parents." It's not that I don't care, it's that no one has ever asked me to think about children of incarcerated parents. So I'll say to them as, "Okay, there's the challenge. I've now asked you to start thinking."
And so how will you do your job differently now that you're thinking about them and thinking about, as you said, the trauma and that ranges from a child witnesses a being arrested or a child comes home from school and finds that mom or dad's not there because they were arrested through jail, possibly onto prison and then reentry and thinking about potential trauma impacts all along the line. And that, it's going to...
What factors in is the relationship with the parents, the relationship with who's caring for the parent, the community support that's available, what's happening in school. Like so many of these different pieces factor into how a child is going to feel supported or not feel supported, recognizing that. I think we'd all agree, it would be traumatic to watch your parent be arrested, but it's also traumatic to come home from school and find that your parent's gone and wondering, "What happened?"
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: For sure. Yeah.
Melissa Radclif...: And we're still in the middle of a pandemic, like our jails in prisons shut down in March of 2020 and are slowly reopening. But I think about kids who, while all the COVID conversations are swirling around us, thinking about, "Is my mom going to be sick? Is someone going to take care of her? Is she coming home? Is she going to die? Why can't I talk to my mom? Why can't see them?" So all those questions that already exist for kids prior to COVID, now you add the layer and the restrictions that come with being in a pandemic. Again, thinking about impacts and what that means for a child who... We're 18 months now with some kids maybe not seeing their parents because of restrictions in jails and prisons.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. One thing that has really sort of run through much of what you've talked about Melissa, is the uncertainty for kids. I mean, there's uncertainty for the adults too. So thinking about the way in which our criminal justice system operates from arrest to post-release supervision. So many levels and so many areas where there isn't clarity, there isn't certainty about decisions and who's making those decisions, who has a voice in the process. And so I think what you've highlighted is hopefully for our practitioners that are listening, what is a role that I can play in maybe reducing some of that uncertainty for the kids, for the parents, for the families, for the caregivers because I think that is a big piece of this. Having those conversations, giving people voice.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. I mean, our legal system is based on uncertainty and that's for the adults who don't have any emotion attachment to what's happening and it's uncertain. Ask a defense attorney and they'll say, "Yeah, it's pretty uncertain what it's happening from day to day." Now, imagine if you're six and nobody's talking to you about what's going on and you're wondering, so that you're right. That uncertainty, I feel like just carries through right from the beginning all the way through until to when a parent is released and possibly coming home.
And I say there are a couple things that we really believe and it's kids knowing that truth and supporting relationships if it's safe and appropriate. And I think the telling the truth piece is, kids have their own truth about what's going on with their parent, what it's based on, maybe what they saw on TV last night or a movie two weeks ago. And so we feel strongly that kids should know the truth in a way that's age appropriate in the hopes that maybe it does reduce some of that uncertainty. And if it doesn't, at least it provides a child to say, "Oh okay, this is the adult, this is a big person I can talk to about this. They may not have a lot of answers for me, but they understand that I'm struggling with all this uncertainty. And so here's a go-to person for me."
Dr. Kristen DeV...: So in terms, from sort of a practitioner perspective, what would you want law enforcement officers, for example, to sort of know and be thinking about as it relates to this issue?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. So I think, something you mentioned earlier about recognizing that kids live in homes with parents. We know that, but thinking about that wearing your law enforcement hat, that when you make an arrest, when you go to a home, when you respond to a call, there may in fact be kids there. And if there's any way to prepare for that in terms of, can dispatch tell you whether or not there are kids there. Recognize when you get to the home and you see little sneakers in a backpack say, "I think there's probably kids here." And to recognize, are there ways to handle this police business to minimize the trauma for children?
So from a safety perspective, I understand there may not be, but is it possible to arrest the parent outside the home if the child's in? Or allowing a parent to give a child a hug or allow a parent a chance to make a quick phone call for someone to come and take care of the child. To recognize that you are arresting someone's mother or father, that's not your role. You're not arresting that person. You're arresting them because you think they committed a crime, but you are in fact, arresting a parent, a mother or father to a child.
There's actually The National Association of Police Chiefs. And I'm not sure I have that name right. But they've actually put together a draft protocol for arrests and how do you do that? And in many cases, it builds off of what domestic violence advocates have been saying for years about, how do we make those arrests if it's necessary without traumatizing a child? So thinking about that, and then as cases move forward, again, I think if we could all just start thinking about kids and what that looks like, and it might even be that the officer's able to help that uncertainty in terms of explaining a little bit to a child about what's going to happen next, where are they taking mom or dad? What are the next steps going to be to recognize. So that would be my thought in terms of starting with very early on with law enforcement, with patrol officers responding to a 911 call.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: And in terms of attorneys. So we like have some prosecuting attorneys, district attorneys, defense attorneys that may be listening. What are some things you would like folks in that role to know about children and where do you see them playing a role in addressing this issue?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. I think they can play lots of roles. And I think I'll start with the same statement. Like, can we start thinking about them? You are representing or prosecuting adults who may in fact be parents and therefore have kids and kids factor into this. And so there's talk in different places around the country about... the victim impact statements have been in existence for quite some time, but kind of modifying that and saying, what does, and from prosecutor's perspective, asking the question about, what does it need to incarcerate a parent? It sort of... Does it solve the problem in terms of the crime problem, but what impact does that have on children and families? So thinking about, or do we have any alternatives to all of this? So from the prosecutor DA perspective, and then from the defense attorney perspective is asking the question of, does my client have children? How do they factor into this conversation?
And even sometimes just asking, how are your kids doing? Are there some resources we can line up for your kids? How are they? And I appreciate the fact that most in particular public defender are slammed. They're not going to have an extra three minutes, but I think it helps to paint a bigger picture, a more complete picture of your client if you know, "Oh, this client is also a parent and this is going to have an impact on kids as well." And then thinking about other attorneys who may be handling other cases. So things involving child support, termination of parental rights, other family court cases is to recognize, "Oh, these aren't just sort of another box on the intake form. These are actually kids who... That has an impact on my clients and how I represent them." And thinking about not only parents but grandparents and the importance of visits and relationships and having that connection.
So I think it's in many cases, attorneys that are thinking about this because they're involved in the courtroom every single day, but it may also be attorneys who are in the courtroom in a different capacity. And there are probably a lot of other attorneys who are doing other related work that might think, "Well gosh, I don't need to know about that." But if they step back for a minute and say, "Oh right, I am doing family court work. I probably should know a bit more about this so that I'm not focused exclusively on my adult parent client but I'm also focusing on the kids," because that's relationship that's important that we need to spend some time looking at.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: So Melissa, for the case managers, probation officers, social workers that may be listening, what do you see as a role they could play in thinking about children of incarcerated parents into their day to day work?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. So I'm going to sound pretty redundant. I'm going to start with the same thing, which is, can we start thinking about children and asking some questions and asking some of our coworkers, our colleagues, "Hey, what do you know about this? Should we be talking about this a bit more?" I think for all of those professions in probably many others, but professions that are focused on the adults is recognizing that being a parent is for them part of their being an adult. And not saying, "Well, we can just kind of slice off that and not focus on that." Because it does make a difference. And when Our Children's Place was first merged with Coastal, someone said the reality is, even if you don't care about the kids, think about what the relationship, what the potential impact of the relationship has on the parent.
And I said, "I don't know what you're talking about." And she said, "Well, let's say for instance, if someone has a history of substance use and their relationship with their child is not going well, either while they're incarcerated or upon release or whatever the case may be. And the stress is just through the roof." She said, "For some parents, for some adults, for some clients, that may be just the thing they need to start using again. To go back to past behaviors with using whatever." And she said, "So, well, again, we may not be focused on the kids or even care about the kids. If that's going to have an impact on our clients, then we need to be paying attention to that." In some cases, I think the relationship with the children and parents wanting to do better is motivation.
You know, I think we can kind of debate about whether we want to put the pressure on kids to be their parents motivator. But I do think for some parents, it's a tool to say, "I'm going to do a better X, Y, Z, because I feel like I've harmed my child and I want to do a better job doing that." And then I think in all of those is encouraging whether case managers, POS, social workers, is encouraging their clients, the parents to think about talking with their children about kind of what's going on. So I think again about probation officers, like that's a new person potentially in a child's life. And if nobody's ever explained to the child... There's book several years old, where a young boy's father was in prison, then he was released and the little boy was super excited until all of a sudden, the probation officer showed up one day and the little boy said, "I thought we were done with this. I thought this was over."
And so thinking about can any of those professions encourage parents to talk a little bit to their kids about, "Okay, this is what it means that I'm out of prison, but I'm on probation. This is what it's going to look like for us as a family," or, "If I'm meeting with a social worker or a case manager every couple of weeks, I'm going to explain to you as my child, what's going on, why I'm doing that." And then I think is for all of them to check in with, "How are your kids doing? Are they doing okay? Do you want to talk a little bit about what they're experiencing and why they might be having a particular reaction?
They might be wondering if you're going to go back to jail or prison or why?They might be asking questions about, "Are you going to be arrested again?" And helping the parents understand that those are going to be really tough conversations because kids are going to ask their parents things that maybe the parents don't want to talk about and how they can be honest about that. Again, going back to truth, kids have a truth about what happened. Maybe we could provide some actual truthful information to help them understand a bit better.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. And kids come and into contact with so many individuals. I think what you highlighted with, "I thought this was over." so that kind of feeds back into that notion of uncertainty. But I think educating teachers and counselors or coaches, or all of the people in the lives of these children have an understanding of their reality and then how each of those entities can support the children through the process. Whether that's having conversations, giving them space to talk or vent about what's happening. So I think that's important.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. I think, I've started saying there's no person place or program that is the place for kids to get their support. We really need to look at where do kids spend their lives and who are the adults in those various places? And how do we make sure... I don't think anybody has to be an expert on this. I think folks need to be good listeners and non-judgmental and understand that for many kids, I'm willing to say even most, probably not all, but most still love their incarcerated parents. And they need people in lives who understand one, that they still love their parent. And to help them understand that it's okay to love someone that the rest of the world might not like. Because you have a little one and even an older child who says, "Of course, I still love my mom. I still love my dad, even though they're incarcerated," but what's swirling around them is all kinds of negative stuff about how their parent is a bad person. They make bad choices. They can't get their act together. They're just screw-ups.
And so now kids think, well, what does that mean if I love someone the rest of the world doesn't like? So I think the more people in a child's life who can say, "Hey, I know you love your mom. Tell me more about her and your relationship. And I get it. Like the rest of the world doesn't seem to like her, but that's okay for you to still love and like her." And I think... You mentioned teachers and counselors. I mean, I have really started to say, let's look at all of our school staff as a whole team, because I think we make an assumption and I've had people say this, "Oh well, the social worker as our school hasn't taken care of."And I thought, "Okay, so let's go with your social worker does, but how many schools is the social worker at and how many students is he or she responsible for?"
So you have a child that decides today is the day they're going to share what's going on with their family and the social worker isn't there, or is working with another child. You can't say to a child, student, "Oh, come back tomorrow. Hold out until the weekend's over." Let's think about who the other people are. And so let's include our school nurses and our counselors. And in some cases, our SROs, that's a whole other conversation. But for some kids, that SRO might be their go-to support person. And then leadership, we need our in-school, our in classroom, our teacher, our teacher's assistants, we need all of our student support folks. And we need our principals, our assistant principals, our superintendents to say, "This is important. We need to be thinking about this. We need to include this in all the work we're doing about social, emotional learning and mental health considerations, and all the conversations about parents coming home. Our schools need to be part of that because that's where kids spend so much of their time. In person or virtual."
Dr. Christina L...: I was wondering about that as far as school boards, that's the first thing that came to my head. Have you done any trainings with school boards in the past?
Melissa Radclif...: The highest we've gone is we've had a number of directors of student services. Which are great, because they can pull in all of those people and say, "Okay, you all need to be here." We've done some... sent some information from school boards, but if there are any school board members out there, we would love a connection. I'm not too proud to make that plea. Because that's our leadership. They set the tone. And we've seen that recently about school boards and the pressure they're under about various conversations. But leadership sets the tone.
I had a school social worker tell me a few years ago, he attended a workshop, was super excited. Called me a few days later and said, I want you to speak at our school. But I talked to my principal and the principal said, "We don't have any kids in that situation in this school. We don't need for her to come in." And the social worker said, that's... I said, "Was that based on any kind of data?" He said, "No." That was based on making an assumption. So we still have some work to do because we can have, and we do, amazing teachers and teacher assistants and student support staff who are doing and want to do amazing things. But if it's shut down by leadership, then it's not going to go any further. So let's make sure we have leadership on board with this as well.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. And provide the resources and the training for the teachers and the counselors that are doing the one-on-one work with the kids.
Melissa Radclif...: Exactly. Yep. Yeah. We're not just saying, "Hey, make this happen. And best of luck." We're saying, "Make it happen. And how can we help you make that happen in your particular school or your particular district?"
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Right.
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah. Seemed like it should just be like an inservice. Everybody should have to do it and learn about it because I'm sure there's someone in every school at least one.
Melissa Radclif...: Yep.
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah.
Melissa Radclif...: And I think we forget that adults were kids. And so statistically, at every school there is, I'm going to... I'm willing to make this statement that there is at least one child with an incarcerated parent, but there is probably also a staff member for whom this is their lived experience, either now or as a child. So now you're a teacher, this was your lived experience and now you have a child in your classroom and the school hasn't spent any time talking about how are we going to respond to it? So thinking about, let's not forget adults lived experience and how that factors into how we support kids who are having a similar lived experience.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. And just thinking about the amount of time kids spend at school out of their day. So providing... I mean, that's a crucial sort of group of folks to get on board and be able to work collaboratively with, a case manager, probation parole, I'm thinking family treatment courts, the relationship that you have with schools and making those connections, having a representative on your family treatment court team that can provide that insight and can be that liaison for information sharing.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. I always remind school staff to just think about, to put on their radar, that oftentimes, and my guess is this will eventually resume, that oftentimes visits in jails and prisons happen on the weekend. And so just put it on your radar to think about what does Monday look like for a child who you know had a planned visit or a phone call with a parent on Saturday or Sunday. And while kids are back on Monday talking about their weekend and what they did or didn't do and all that, is just to kind of remind ourselves that for some, that weekend may have looked a bit different. And whether it was a good visit or a not so good visit, the fact is the child came home and the parent didn't. And so...
And then the reentry conversation is again, this is a whole potential school board issue is whether parents who have a criminal record can volunteer at their child's school, can be involved on any level with what's going on in terms of field trips or coming into read stories or whatever the case may be. So we talk about reentry in schools and thinking about that relationship and what that's going to look like for families when that parent is being released and possibly wants to get involved or back involved in their child's school life. Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: The weekend thing really just hit home for me, because I think about my children that on Monday they have circle time and they talk about their weekend. And again, that never thought of it thing, how many teachers think to their self like, "Oh well, this could have been the weekend that Johnny went to visit mom or dad, but you know..." And they probably never, as we've been saying time am in time in here, they never thought of it. They never thought about that. Do we run into issues Melissa, with privacy issues? Like at school, I'm just thinking like, is there anything around like the teacher having the right to know that's... or not the right, but having permission to know that's the current situation? I'm just thinking kind of how could we overcome perhaps those challenges where somebody may say, "Oh well, no, that's private." A case worker or social worker in school may say, "Oh, I can't tell the teacher that this is their... What's going on with this family because it's private."
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. And that question comes up a lot. It actually came up with a group, a community group earlier this week. And what I always encourage groups to do, whether it's a school or a community group to say, "I think that sounds like a conversation you need to have internally about how you're going to handle that sharing of information." And what I'll encourage them to do is say, "Think about other situations where, it's not a mandated reporting situation, but other situations where you might have learned of something, a child's parent died or has a terminal illness, or you know, other tough topics. How do you handle that? Have you ever had a conversation within a school about how you handle that sharing of information?"
Because I feel like we can look at it from two perspectives is if we're talking about a school community that's rallying around kids and supporting, then we would want folks to know. But I also don't want a child to feel like, a student to feel like I told counselor because I trust the counselor. I see that person once a week, I can go to his or her office when I want to, but now I get to school today and I found out everybody at the school knows, the counselor shared that with everybody. And that wasn't my plan. It was to start that way.
So I was talking to a school librarian here in Durham about two weeks ago in preparation for talking to other librarians next week. And she talked about that example where a child has told her what's going on. And she said I tell students we're not secret keepers. So let's see who else here in the school would be a good resource for you. Somebody who has experience working with kids who've had a similar type of experience and making sure to connect with the counsel or the social worker and thinking about logistically, how to make that happen. So would you say to the child, "Let's walk down the hallway to the counselor's office or do you want me to tell the counselor on my own or? Kind of figuring out. So you're not taking that control away from the child and sharing with everybody. But also making sure there is a team approach to all of that.
Dr. Christina L...: I like that. That makes sense. The secret keepers is... that's pretty cool.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: It is.
Dr. Christina L...: And just the role of librarians.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: I was just thinking kids-
Melissa Radclif...: Oh, that-
Dr. Kristen DeV...: ... They love librarians
Melissa Radclif...: Yes. Yes. My new favorite topic. Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah. I mean one, an amazing group of individuals for you to target you. I know people... Kids that's fun time when they get to get out of the classroom and go to the library once a week. What a great resource. Wow.
Melissa Radclif...: That's yeah, I've had and I've presented a few times at the School Librarian Conference and they've said, "We can create a safe space so kids can come in, students can come in and take a book off the shelf that reflects what they're going through. And whether they take that book and read it cover to cover or they flip through it, or they just know, "Hey, in that safe space, there are books about kids who are dealing with what I'm dealing with." I think is pretty amazing. And I had a mom tell me a few years ago, the father of her children was in prison. And the couple of kids, older kids, late middle school and into high school were really, really struggling with this and getting into some, I don't want to say altercations, but some pretty heated conversations.
And they made a point of... She went to the school and said, "We need to identify here in the school who kids can go to when it's reached that point, because the next point is there's going to be problems and we don't want that. So let's make sure." And so they identified a couple of people where the students could just take a break and go and sit in someone's office or have a brief conversation with someone. And then I had another mom who daughter she said they had shared and were very honest with her where her dad was, what was going on but she said this little, this child was sharing with everyone at the school, what was going on and it was making the school a bit uncomfortable about everywhere she turned. So again, mom sat down with the school and what they did was they identified who the good listeners were.
And what she said to her daughter was, "What you're going to find out is that not everybody is a good listener. We want to make sure you know who the good listeners are in the school, so when you want to talk about your dad, you can go to talk to one of the good listeners." and I thought, first of all, true. Lots and lots of good listeners are in all of our lives. But again, being proactive and not wanting to shut down the child and sharing, but maybe redirecting a bit. So it was a bit more appropriate in that everybody didn't feel like they needed to respond and didn't know what to do. But having those identified resources for a child in the school. I thought kind of an interesting approach.
Dr. Christina L...: So great strategies.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: And age appropriate.
Dr. Christina L...: I was going to say, not the one size fits all. You must go talk to the social worker about this. Let's figure out what works for the child. That's really great.
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: So these ideas are great. These strategies for... I know we focus a lot on schools, but I think that's because we know that's where, as we've said, where children spend a lot of their time. Are there resources out there that you could offer up and we can link those resources in the podcast itself? If they're electronic, just in case somebody's listening and they're interested in, "Oh well, where can I learn more?" Or, "Is there something that I can do specifically to help with this population?"
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. And yeah, you're right. I think we do focus a lot on schools because that's where kids spend most of their time. But I do think that some of the strategies apply outside our classrooms and our schools and in the communities and whether that's an afterschool program or childcare centers, faith communities, I think probably a little bit of tweaking, but I think many of the strategies are things that could, even if they're tended to be for school, they could apply to the community. When I think about resources, of course I'm going to make a plug for our website, but also beyond that, you'll find a lot of resources there. There is a national center for children and families of the incarcerated. It's based in out of Rutgers. Really good resources there, the Osborne Association out of New York, they just concluded their National CS Support Us Campaign.
This year, the focus was on educational wellbeing. But so many of the resources applied to professionals across the board, not just school staff. I mentioned the NAKC Foundation. That's another resource that I find myself going to. And then I mentioned about librarians and them being our new favorite group is we actually have recently updated four book lists on our website. And so really encouraging folks to think about the types of books that are in our libraries, whether that's school or our community libraries, or even in a waiting area, or families can check out books that somebody has a little professional library, they can check them out. And I always say that even if books don't get checked out, I just love the fact that kids can go to the shelf or the online collection and say, "Oh look, this is what's here at this library. And these are stories about kids who are like me who are going through something similar." The Orange County Library did a book display for October, for CS Support Us. And she said, they've had to replace several of the books because so many of them were checked out.
Dr. Christina L...: Oh good.
Melissa Radclif...: And I think about is that kids who have an incarcerated parent who checked it out, whereas other parents wanting their children to know more about this? Either way, it makes me happy. But to think about how do we support kids, but also how do we help other kids be good friends? And sometimes a book might be the way to do that. And then Sesame Street has really good materials. We have copies of their toolkits that we can provide to folks. There's a link on our website. And then they also have a really good website with resources, again, supporting kids, but making sure to include the incarcerated parents and caregivers in this conversation about the support that's needed. So those are tend to be my go-to resources. And I'd be happy to send you links to put on the website for the podcast, because I think there are great places for people to go to learn a bit more about this particular topic
Dr. Christina L...: And Melissa, one group that you just mentioned. And I don't think we've really addressed is the caretaker. And so maybe we can spend a couple minutes just talking about sort of, perhaps the challenges for the caretakers of the children or resources again, support. Kind of your, I guess, just really your thoughts on that particular role.
Melissa Radclif...: I feel like caregivers get lost in this conversation. That's already a lost conversation because in some cases, it's the other parents. So now you're essentially a single parents. There are foster parents and foster care and similar situations that really get overlooked in this conversation. I've had foster parents say to me, "Gosh, I wish we knew more because the first who was placed with us, this was their situation and we just... nobody talked to us about it." And then I think about grandparents and we're asking a whole generation of grandparents to raise a second generation. And in many cases, grandparents, I think play a dual role because they're caring for the child with incarcerated parent. But in many cases, they are a parent of the incarcerated parent. If that makes sense. So their child has gone to jail or prison. They're now caring for their child's children.
And you don't stop being a parent just because your child went to jail or prison. And now you're taking care of both. And for some grandparents, of course, they wouldn't think of anything different. They, of course, they're going to take care of their grandkids, but that wasn't necessarily their plan was to take care of a second generation. And there may be some financial concerns, issues around technology, health concerns. So there have been various groups across the state, oftentimes like grandparents as parents groups that have tried to provide some support. But there's a relatively new grandparent support group in Surry County, that's virtual. So anyone can log on. It's not specifically around having an incarcerated child, but it's, for many of them that, is the situation.
So that's another resource that just started in the last gosh, probably in the past year and I think is another place for caregivers to get some support. Folks in Charlotte, I don't know if they're still during the pandemic, but were doing a monthly potluck for families and they would break into groups. So it would be kids, teen and then caregivers. And so they were able to offer some support. And I think that's a model that other counties could use. Ask a church if they'll host and provide recognizing of course, though if you're doing that, you're asking caregivers to do one more thing. The thing that we're trying to avoid, so it may be having to be creative and saying, how do we get this to work? So we're not asking you to do one more thing, instead we're offering you additional support as you handle all the other things that are going on in your life. Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: That's great.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. That's a great idea. And reaching out to those natural community supports. So Faith Based Community. Places where grandparents and kids so the YMCA, the YWCAs. The ways in which they can be partners in this work. That's a great, great suggestion.
Melissa Radclif...: One of the other resources that I find really helpful and I share with every group that we speak to and it's actually on our website is the Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents. It is not a legal document. There's nothing binding, but I love the fact, and I can't take any credit group out of San Francisco, put it together. But I love the fact that I think it's a jumping off point for many groups. When I show it on the slide, I know people think, "Oh my gosh, we can't take on one more thing. Nevermind, eight more things." But I'll say this, is there one of those rights you could pick and have that be your thing? The place you focus your energy and whether it's about supporting or about having relationships or pick the one and say, "This is the thing that we're going to focus on."
And then I encourage professionals or groups to share it with families to post it on their website or have it blown up and put it on a bulletin board. It's just a way to even think that there may be some things that we should be guaranteeing for kids that maybe we haven't been thinking about. So I just encourage groups to look at it and think, is this something that we could focus on, make off our jumping off point and be able to share it with families, to think about, here are some additional thoughts around how we support kids who are in the situation. So it's a bill of rights for children who have an incarcerated parent. And I would encourage folks to check it out and I'll send the link. So if you want to put on your website as well, I think folks could check it out.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah, that would be great. We'll definitely post that. And so for the researchers that may be listening and selfishly we are interested in this, Melissa, if you were designing a program or a strategy for collecting data on children of incarcerated parents, what would you gather about them in order to answer some of those questions that we all have about the population. And so what specifically would you recommend people collect?
Melissa Radclif...: So I think, I mean, some of it's pretty basic and for anyone who's done any kind of data collection we obviously want to know how old the children are? Who's caring for them? Where do they live? Some information about race and ethnicity. Gender. And I think the other piece that sometimes we get overlooked is, so we say incarcerated parent, but is that the biological parent? Is it an adopted parent? Is it a parent who's not officially a parent but has been caring for the child? Because I think those get overlooked. Or maybe it's a niece or nephew or some other relationship. So I would want to know more about the child in terms of their demographics, but also about the relationship and what that's going to look like. Because obviously legal relationships are much different than those that aren't. But they're equally as important for kids if those are the parents or adults who have been supporting them.
I want to know where the children live. That's a question that comes up all the time is, well, where are the kids? And so identifying where they live, whether that's in state or out of state. And then you've talked already about caregivers and a little bit more maybe about their situation and where they could use some assistance. But again, knowing the relationship. The report that DPS runs does break down who's caring for the child. But I think even within that, you could ask some more questions to get a bit more information about... If it says sibling, then tell me more about that sibling and what the situation is there. So I think even taking the information that we do have and breaking it down a bit further and thinking about, is there more information that would be helpful to be able to provide services? Not just to check a box, but to say, "Oh, if we knew that, then here are some additional resources we could provide because we now know a bit more about the family."
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Great. Yeah. So some more nuanced data around. Which likely, you could certainly ask folks to report demographic information about their children and then use that to probe and to have a conversation and get some of that more detailed information. Do you have any kind of things to keep in mind as people are engaged in those conversations? So if I'm a case manager and I'm talking to a participant in my treatment court program, do you have any thoughts or tips for how to engage parents and caregivers in asking those questions?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. Yeah. And I think so much of it has to do with that question of, well, why are you asking? Are you looking to just check up... not just, but looking to check boxes on the form to gather information, or do you have something to offer me in exchange for me sharing this information and talking about what is potentially a difficult thing to talk about? They talk about universal screening for domestic violence and they'll say, but if you're going to screen, you have to be able to provide something in response to. It's not enough just to say, "Oh, thanks for sharing, have a great day." But to be able to say, "We're asking these questions for this reason, we're trying to make sure that what we all have to offer you matches up with your particular situation." So I think even setting the early on to say, "Here's the reason we're doing this and this is what we can offer you, as a response or a resource based on what you're telling us."
And giving folks the option to say, "I'd prefer not to answer that question. I'll talk about this, but I won't talk about that." Or, "I'll give you these answers but this other piece is just... is not something I'm willing talk about at this particular point." And even you're talking about nuanced information. So being clear like, "Okay, so you're telling me you have a 10 year old. Okay. So is he or she a fifth grader?" Knowing a little bit about kind of the follow up questions, because that may give you some more information. Actually, that child is not in that grade. They're in a different grade. Okay. Well that gives us some more information about what's going on with the child's school life. So being willing to say, "Okay, I'm answering these questions, but know that there are some, maybe some follow up pieces that go to it." And again, explain to a family why you're asking that information. I think that's really important when that's being in jails or prisons, because that's a stressful time and there's a lot of concern about giving out information.
How that's going to be used against me or my family, if I share that. And I think about families where maybe they have told people, professionals or others in the community what's going on, or they've answered some of the questions and got a real lousy response. And right, that's happened to all of us. We've told someone something that was really difficult for us and the response was, "Oh, that's not a big deal." Or, "Oh, you'll get over it." Or, "Oh, let me tell you about my situation." Or then they share it with 10 other people and you think, "Wow, I'm not going to tell anybody else because I got such a bad response." And I think about that with data collection. Like if I share that with you and your response is strictly about numbers and not about me as a person, then I'm probably not going to be inclined to tell you much more or tell anyone else, because that was not the response I was looking for.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. I think that's a great point. And recognizing. They may have shared that information previously, I'm talking about the individual incarcerated. And there was an adverse action taken. And so they may just be incredibly guarded. And again yeah, thinking of about this from kind of the data collection process, this is part of the rapport building. So engaging in a true conversation, not an interrogation or question, answer, question, answer, but really using this to engage in conversation and learn more about the person sitting in front of you and the person with whom you're going to be working in some programs for a year, two years, three years. And it may take time, like you said, to get the full story, but certainly using this as a way to engage. So I think your spot on there.
Melissa Radclif...: And as we're talking about this data collection and building rapport, as you talked about, and knowing that it's not just a checklist, it's how do we gather information that's in a way that's respectful for families? Is to think about the importance of language. And this is always something on one of my slides is I look at two different parts of this. One is that we tend to use the words jail and prison interchangeably. And they're not.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Absolutely.
Melissa Radclif...: They're, as I said, two very different birds that create two different experiences for families. So being clear in our minds and I usually do a little quick education for folks about the difference between jails and prisons and being clear about that. And I always say to them, "Hey, that actually could be part of your homework. I gave you homework at the beginning," like go drive by the jail in your community. You don't have to stop in. They're not going to welcome you, but at least know like where it is and have a visual on it. Or the prison if you have one in your community. So that's the first part of language. And I think that's being respectful to the families to say, "I know the difference."
And then the other is the language and the words that we use to describe the parents. And I'll say, I've got a list of, I think, 13, and that we've all heard them. We refer to folks as cons and convicts and pers and perpetrators and offenders and inmates and prisoners. And I'll say sometimes we don't even give them a name. We call them and refer to them the number they were assigned when they went to the facility. Or we just use shorthand and say, they're a bad person. And what I'll say is, let's use the titles terms and words that kids use that... I would never say to a child, how's your con mom, or how's your felon dad? Like, that's horrible. I would never say it. And yet that's what kids hear is that. And then when parents leave, now they're an ex. And I would say for most of us, being an ex is not ideal. Ex whatever. And so, like ex offender, that's just not. So we're talking about moms and dads, mommys and daddys, mamas and papas and whatever.
Let's use the titles terms and kids use both while we're talking with them and then in other scenarios. So maybe you always refer to dad as dad when you're talking to a child, but then in a conversation with a colleague, which a child overheard, you refer to that person, to dad, as an offender or an inmate or an Ex-con. Kids are like sponges, they are going to pick up on that. So while you may call my dad, dad when we're talking, I know what you think about him outside of our particular interaction or relationship. So it's not only what kids hear, but other scenarios, other places where they may hear you reference their parent as something that is probably not quite as complimentary as maybe a child would like. So I think the language piece is so, so very important. And anytime we do work in prisons, I always have to remind our volunteers that we are there to work with parents. We are not there to work with offenders. And I think that's an important for people to remember. That's our goal is to support them as parents.
Dr. Christina L...: Yeah. And language in general, Kristen and I have done some presentations around just how we use language, especially in the work that we do with treatment courts. And when we talk about things like substance use, we don't want to call somebody a substance abuser or a junkie, and those types of things and the same applies. So we talk about it within that realm, but we also talk about it within the criminal justice realm. And we try to get the point across, as you just said, that how you as an individual refer to that person may in some subconscious way impact how you treat that person.
Melissa Radclif...: Right. Right.
Dr. Christina L...: So if you're calling the person an inmate or a convict in other situations, and again, as you said, perhaps hopefully you wouldn't say that in front of the child, but even saying it to a colleague or saying it in another setting, that's going to influence how you... It's going to happen. That's just the way language works. That's what, the way our brains work. That could influence how you treat that person on a regular basis. So thinking about the bigger picture of language is so important.
Melissa Radclif...: Yep. If I'm talking to a colleague and I refer to someone as an offender, I feel like you're also giving that person permission to use the same language. Like, "Well, she said it so I can say it." And then we've got kind of this cycle where it's like, well, who is going to be the one to stop and say, actually that person's not offender, that person is Mary or Susie or mom or dad or whatever.
Dr. Christina L...: Absolutely. Yeah.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: It really sets the tone for the subsequent conversation when those terms are used. And so I think, yeah.
Melissa Radclif...: We did, this is a few years ago, we did parent day at Orange Correctional. And one of the volunteers called me a few days before in a little bit of a panic and said, "I don't think I can be there on Saturday. And I don't think I can get it to work." And I said, "Well, what's going on? Tell me." She said, "Well, I'm really kind of nervous about being there." And so it was her first time at a prison. I'm imagining a million things that maybe she was nervous about. She said, "I just... I don't know whether or not I can work with inmates."
And I said, "Will you do me a favor?" She said, "Sure." I said, "Will you show up on Saturday and with dads?" She said, "Of course I will." And I said, "We're not there to work. We're not there to help them file an appeal or make an escape, or do anything else you think you do when you work with inmates, we're there to support them as parents, as dads." She's like, "I can do that." Now she didn't show up. So my argument clearly was not compelling enough. But I use as an example of what could have been if maybe she didn't have a flat tire or something, so yeah.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Sure. Yeah.
Dr. Christina L...: What a great... That's just a great example.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. A good way to think about language being the frame within which we talk, we make decisions as you know-
Dr. Christina L...: We judge.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Right. Absolutely. Judge and treat people
Dr. Christina L...: Based on that language. Yep.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. And I think Melissa, this segues really into one of the hallmark features of the Justice To Healing Podcast is this idea of a call to action. So really getting people to think about how can I or how can we, if they're working as a team to translate the information into practice. So I know you've talked about getting conversations started, certainly using some of the resources that you've mentioned to do just that. But do you have additional thoughts about ways in which folks can translate this, the information that you've shared today into practice?
Melissa Radclif...: Yeah. And I love the word translate. I hadn't thought about it that way, but whenever I speak to a group, I give them a homework assignment at the beginning. And what I'll say is, "I think I'm going to give you lots of really good information, but if it's..." Then it just stops there. If it's just great information, we need to think about how are we're going to implement transition, translate, call the action, whatever term or phrase to use. And that's why I say, "What's your homework? What are you going to do with this information after I'm no longer in front of you or log off or whatever the case may be." And I usually give them some examples of how to get started, but I think starting the conversation and it might be asking at the school, can you tell me a little bit... If you are a parent or your children went to school, can you tell a little bit more about kind of what's the conversation and let me share with you some resources from the CS Support Us Campaign.
Simple things like go to the library. Usually if I'm presenting in a community, I'll stop by the library, go to the children's section and check out, no pun intended, what books they have. And if they say, "Oh well, we don't have any of those." I'll say, "Here's a book list. Check that out." And if it's something, if the response is, "Well, we're end of the fiscal year, we don't have money left in our budget." I'll say, "Then can we get the Lions or the Kiwanis to do a book drive? Let's think really practical about that. And then think about sharing that book list with families." What I always say is, I think we need to make this a universal conversation in terms of where we provide information. So I love the fact that you're talking about posting something on your neighborhood Lister.
So thinking about posting information where families can access information when it's convenient for them, and families may not be ready to talk about this. So maybe it does need to be something that an organization posts on their website and they put materials in their waiting room and they send an email and they put something in the weekly update that they send off to parents. So really kind of providing as many opportunities for families to access information when it's convenient and when they're ready to do it. And then I also think about kind of broadening the conversation and recognizing that for some kids, it's not an incarcerated parent, it's an incarcerated, other loved person. So grandparents, older siblings, aunt and uncle, maybe even a family friend. So again, I think if we kind of broaden and our, say, our call to action is, we're going to provide materials for families where it's convenient for them to access it.
And we recognize that for some families and for some kids, it's not just a parent. It goes beyond that. So opening up that conversation. I think about Faith Communities. And we have Faith Communities across the state who are doing amazing things in our jails and prisons with prayer circles and worship services and Bible studies. And you have my vote, keep doing that, but let's not forget about our families and kids who are sitting in the pews behind, waiting, wondering, looking for support, grateful that those prison ministries and faith and jail prison ministries are happening, but are sort of overlooked in the conversation. Afterschool programs. Again, thinking about we've presented to a lot of afterschool programs because that's the continuation of school. So how do we create that safe space for kids there? How do we look at our childcare facilities and our childcare professionals and asking them to start thinking about this?
So getting resources into families hands, however that happens. And I challenge folks to think about how do we provide resources to incarcerated parents? And what I'll say is really simple example. We cannot expect incarcerated parents to be engaged in their children's school lives. If it's safe and appropriate, we can't expect them if they don't have a copy of the school calendar. They don't know what's going on. They don't know that today the schools might be closed for Veterans Day and maybe tomorrow for our Mental Health Day. So how do we ask school staff to provide information to incarcerated parents, to keep them engaged in what's going on in their children's school life. If it's safe and appropriate. So thinking about that.
And then thinking about what folks have on their websites and social media. Again, that's where families may be accessing information. And so can you put up some information in your website? I would say, you don't have to put up the Library of Congress, put up a couple things on your website that says, "Oh, here's a good starting point." And then talking to our elected officials, whether that's the school board folks, whether that's county commissioners, or city or town council, whoever those folks are to say, "Are we thinking about this? What's happening in our community? What's going on with social services or the health department or our school system? Or any of the other places that families find themselves? Could we be talking about this a bit more? How do we start this conversation here? How do we make this happen?"
So that every place a child or family is going, there are folks that say, "Oh, we know about this. We have some information. We can talk to you about how to make that happen." So I think there are lots of, as you said, translation. Some are very simple and can happen immediately. You can go to your library this afternoon, if they're open or this weekend, and some are much more involved, like how do we get what's happening in our court system or what's happening in our health department or DSS. Those are much more significant and probably longer range plans, but let's start that conversation today to make those conversations happen down the road.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Absolutely. Well, Melissa, we would like to thank you for joining us today. This was wonderful.
Melissa Radclif...: Yes. Thank you. This is amazing. I appreciate it.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: Yeah. We really appreciate your time and your willingness to share your expertise on a very important, but oftentimes overlooked or a topic maybe folks haven't considered.
Melissa Radclif...: Right. Right.
Dr. Kristen DeV...: So thank you. Thank you again. And to our listeners, thank you for being here. Please join us on the ndcrc.org discussion board to continue the discussion about children of incarcerated parents. Please join us next month for another episode of Justice To Healing and always remember to do better.
Speaker 4: To our listeners, we thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show. Be sure to his subscribe to stay updated on the podcast. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to stay engaged with us and check out our website, ndcrc.org. Thanks again. Catch you next time on Justice To Healing. The Justice To Healing Podcast is presented by The National Drug Court Resource Center and was supported by the grant number 2019, DC BXK 002 awarded by The Bureau of Justice Assistance, which also includes The Bureau of Justice of Statistics, The National Institute of Justice, The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, The Office for Victims of Crime in the Smart Office. Points of view or opinions in this podcast or those of the author do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice.