This second training in the Systems Serving Children and Families of the Incarcerated series, “Responding to Children of the Incarcerated in Schools and Child Care”, was hosted by NRCCFI Director Ann Adalist-Estrin. This training brought together school district administrators, teachers, and counselors to dialogue with children of the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated covering questions such as: What do children with incarcerated parents want teachers, mentors and school staff to know about them? What can schools and school based programs do to minimize the trauma, stigma and stress of parental incarceration? What are schools and child care programs around the country doing to address these issues?
Kathy Suzanne Garza is a school counselor who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and four children. She is a credentialed mediator and the author of the children’s book, When Papi was Sent to Jail/Cuando Papi fue Mandado a la Carcel, which was originally written in an effort help her students develop coping strategies to enable them to move forward during their parent’s incarceration. The book also brings to light the struggles and challenges faced by children and spouses of the incarcerated. When Papi was Sent to Jail/Cuando Papi fue Mandado a la Carcel draws from Garza’s own childhood experiences as well as those her students have so graciously shared with her in her nine years as a school counselor. Garza currently serves as campus liaison for the Seedling Promise Mentoring program which connects children of incarcerated parents with trained mentors. In May of 2009, Ms. Garza was awarded the first Angels and Advocates award from the Seedling Foundation for her work with children of the incarcerated.
Dr. Sybil Knight- Burney is Assistant Superintendent for the Division of Student, Family & Community Support Services in the Harrisburg School District in Harrisburg, PA. Her division consists of Elementary and Secondary Counselors, Social Workers, Teen Parenting Coordinators, Health Services, Homeless Services, and Special Programs for Parents, and Community Outreach. Prior to her arrival in Harrisburg she has been an elementary, middle and high school Principal in Massachusetts. As Principal of the Agassiz School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Knight Burney was featured in the Boston Globe. The article extolled her leadership style and ability to effectively use “dialoguing” as a means to adhere to the needs of the school and community. In addition, her ability to effectively communicate opened the school to new ideas which enhanced the curriculum, encouraged professional development, and increased parent participation and involvement.
An active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she serves as EMBODI committee chair of the local chapter and is a national member of the Program, Planning and Development Committee. She is a member of the Dauphin County Drug & Alcohol Prevention Stakeholders and most recently was asked to serve on the Joint State Government Commission’s Advisory Committee to Review the Effects of Children of Incarcerated Parents. Dr. Knight -Burney received the 2009 Community Award from Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth. Along with her husband, Kelly and 8 year old daughter, Maryah, she attends the Harrisburg Church of Christ where she teaches Bible classes to kindergarten through high school students every Sunday morning. Under Dr. Knight -Burney’s leadership, Harrisburg School District became one of only 3 School Districts in the U.S. to participate in District –Wide trainings on the needs of children of the incarcerated provided by NRCCFI, joining Austin Texas and later, Chicago, Illinois. Harrisburg School District also developed a group counseling effort for identified children, partnering with Shippensburg University and Big Brothers , Big Sisters Capital Region. Harrisburg School District has also held community forums on Children with Incarcerated Parents for area parents and service providers.
Jacquelin Miller is in the 10th grade at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, New York. Jacquelin is a cheerleader and a student film maker. She is featured in the new documentary film “Echoes of Incarceration” a youth-produced documentary project focusing on the impact of the prison system on children. The piece, produced by teens with incarcerated parents, uses the dramatic, interwoven stories of four youth, along with interviews with experts in the field, to give voice to the growing epidemic of children with incarcerated parents. Jacquelin will share her thoughts and feelings about the role of schools and teachers in supporting, or hurting, children and youth with incarcerated parents. Her struggle to cope with her mother’s incarceration, keep up her grades, help her aunt with her 2 brothers and 1 sister and still “be a kid” will inspire and inform participants.
Elizabeth Sanchez has been a member of Project WHAT! since the summer of 2009. She joined Project WHAT! because of her experience having her father incarcerated for a majority of her life and wants to speak about the issue. In the fall of 2009, she began her junior year at San Francisco State and is pursuing a Bachelors degree in journalism. In the future, she hopes to use what she has learned from Project WHAT! to take the issue of children with incarcerated parents to a broader audience, and use her writing to help change lives.Project WHAT! is a program of Community Works West in Berkley, California. WHAT! stands for We’re Here & Talking, which is exactly what the team is doing in raising awareness about the impact of parental incarceration on children. Their long-term goal is to improve services and policies that affect these children. The program employs young people who have experienced parental incarceration—or those who have a parent under the supervision of the criminal justice system—as the primary curriculum content developers and facilitators for trainings.
Ann Adalist-Estrin is the Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated at FCN. She is a child and family therapist in Jenkintown, PA and has for the last 30 years, been an author , trainer and advocate focused on improving responses to and changing systems that serve children and families of the incarcerated.