My name is Q. Futrell, and I recently developed a resource that brings awareness and helps get the conversation of parental incarceration started! My book is called, Our Moms. This book deals with four characters that all look different but share one common factor. Their mothers are incarcerated. I was inspired to write this book based on my real life story. I am the product of two previously incarcerated parents. Both my mother and father were in and out of the criminal justice system most of my life. My goal is to be a Champion and voice for children who have a parent incarcerated.
Providing a Safe Haven for Children Through Children’s Literature
Did you know that there is one in 14 children in the US with a parent incarcerated??
Check out this interesting fact and harmful effect of parental incarceration from Kristin Turney, Associate Professor, Sociology, UCI School of Social Sciences (2014). The research found significant health problems, including behavioral issues, in children of incarcerated parents. Parental incarceration can be more detrimental to a child’s well-being than divorce or the death of a parent.
Why do you think that is? Why would a parent going away to prison impact a child’s behavior and health more so than death or divorce?
Many possible factors are contributing to this problem, among which are behavioral concerns, health issues, academic decline and achievement gap. Here is a simple reason; children who lose their parent due to death or divorce are supported! Typically, they are taken to counseling and even told the truth about the current situation. More than few of the children whose parents are incarcerated is either not told anything about their parent whereabouts or are told lies.
In most early childhood settings, children are sharing this information during circle time; quite frankly, making it very uncomfortable for teachers to respond. Most teachers I have trained initially had no idea how to answer such a special moment.
Teachers have noted they would hear “Last night my mommy was arrested.” Typically, the teacher would respond with, “Okay honey, we will talk about that later.” However, this is the incorrect method! The correct thing to do, as an educator, would be first to acknowledge what the child said and then redirect the conversation. So after hearing such news, you would say, “Oh wow! How did that make you feel? How about after circle time, we go over to the art center and draw a picture about your feelings, and we can talk about it together?”
There has also been a report of awkward lies being shared. Here is an example: “Guess what, I went to see my mommy last night at college, and everyone had on orange jumpsuits!” In this case, the incorrect approach would be to say, “Sweetheart that is NOT college.” The correct approach would be, “Oh wow, really? Well, were you happy to see her? I am certain she enjoyed seeing you.” Afterward, you may speak with your director about conducting an informal meeting with the family during pick up to inform them of what the child said and ensure them you can be a non-judgmental, confidential resource to support them during this time.
Our Moms is not just a book; this is a MOVEMENT! Parental incarceration affects more than merely the prisoner. Parental incarceration affects the lives of those that are left behind. The children of the prisoner, the family member caring for the child, and the child’s teacher will all be affected. These subgroups all deserve a right to understand the situation.
Children and adults all around the world are starting the conversation, TODAY!! If you would like to join the movement and become an advocate for this population of children, please visit qunianafutrell.com! If you are interested in having me coming out to speak to your class, train your staff or be a keynote at your next event, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of my team will respond within 24 hours. I am currently on a book tour and dates are filling quickly! I would love for your school or business to be the next stop!
As a childcare provider, how would you respond to a child who openly talks about their parent being arrested? Would you know how to respond? Please share your thoughts on this sensitive subject. We are interested in opening up a dialogue.
About the Author
Q. Futrell is a Family Catalyst! She is a New Jersey native and now resides in Virginia. When she is not advocating for families, she is spending quality time with her supportive husband, Alton. She is a strong advocate for children in their early years. She believes that every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be. Both of her parents have been in and out of local jails and state prisons. Author Q. Futrell has a personal interest in seeing healthy parents raise healthy children. Visit www.qunianafutrell.com for more information.