The Story So Far
We all expect to make mistakes. We all know that things will go wrong. But we always hope that, when they happen, terrible events in our lives won’t break us. For families of the incarcerated in our community it already seems too late. It’s not hard to read ahead, to sneak a peak at the last page and see nothing but suffering in the future.
The present is bleak. Eighty percent of the children watched as their father or mother was handcuffed and driven to jail. It’s an event so traumatic that the Center for Disease control classified it as an Adverse Childhood Experience (A.C.E.) - a trauma that will affect physical health and wellbeing for a lifetime. Lose of income and the emotional crisis, stigma and shame among peers - all of these factors devastate families.
The story doesn’t have to end that way. Let’s write a new ending...
What Can We Do?
We can intervene with services and supports that cushion the landing. We can work to save the family house, we can help with transportation, we can guide the remaining caregiver on a path to emotional, social, financial, and spiritual stability. We can do this at the point of incarceration by becoming visible to the families before they are desperate - before the pieces start falling around them.
Next, we can pull the cover off of the problem. Families with an incarcerated parent elude our gaze, sometimes intentionally. Because of the trauma; the day in court, mounting bills, and the emptiness in the house when it’s over. Noone wants their friends or peers to know what happened. Shame battles against a child’s natural love for their parent. They withdraw from everyone around them.
When a family is so isolated, they will try to figure it out on their own. That’s why we want to be in the courts and in the law offices, in the schools talking to counselors, in the churches and in front of the community. We want to let them know that you support them and that you want the best for them, because if they suffer - we suffer.
Our community can become something different - a place where we reach out to these hurting families. Nothing's set in stone.There’s still time for a rewrite.