Written by: Hamed Farmand and Dennis Mersmann
Edited by: Susan Ahn
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Rosedale Public Library (NE Washington DC)
A meeting was held at Rosedale Library on August 11, in order to introduce the program that is presented by Children of Imprisoned Parents International (COIPI) and to provide a preview of an upcoming eight-week course. Chelante’ Mitchell led the presentation and discussion with those in attendance.
Fewer than 10 individuals, who have relatives in the prison and have challenges with raising children with incarcerated parents, attended the event. They engaged in the program and asked on-point questions.
Lack of advertising was the reason that the audience was a small group.
Hamed, founder and president of the non-profit organization, Children of Imprisoned Parents International (COIPI), began the meeting by introducing himself and his organization. He described how growing up as a child of incarcerated parents inspired him to create an organization to help those in similar situations. Hamed briefly explained the classes that would follow from this meeting before introducing Chelante’, the presenter of the program.
Chelante’, a school social worker who works for Apple Tree Public Charter Schools, spoke about her experience growing up with an incarcerated parent, her father, who was frequently absent. Though she had other people, such as h
er grandfather, to fill the paternal role, it still had a profound impact on her life. Chelante’ described her graduate and professional experience as a
social worker and how that has allowed her to understand the perspective and challenges of incarcerated parents. Specifically, working with an all-male substance abuse group gave her a different view on her relationship with her own father. Chelante’ identified this as the reason for her desire to be involved with COIPI.
Attendees were then invited to share their reasons for attending the meeting and what they hoped to learn. Reasons were varied, such as having friends or families who were or are incarcerated, working with children of incarcerated parents, and wanting to better understand a societal issue.
Hamed then presented COIPI’s mission and goals. COIPI was created to help children deal with the psychological effects of growing up with an incarcerated parent. COIPI creates, promotes, delivers, and sustains evidence-based prevention and support programs for children experiencing physical and psychological trauma associated with having incarcerated parents. Additionally, COIPI provides resources and education for children, parents, and members of the judicial and social services community.
Chelante’ provided an overview of the eight-week course to be presented. She briefly introduced and explained each subject. She started with Types of Parenting Styles and talked about Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Uninvolved parenting styles. She also explained the Method of Choice. There was a discussion with attendees about the effects, manifestations and merits of the different parenting styles. Then she talked about Responsibility of Parenting and Disciplining, the Effective Non-Violence Discipline, and the Importance of Discipline for Children of Incarcerated Parents. Attendees discussed how children respond emotionally to the absence of a parent, how emotions can present themselves, and how to engage children in expressing themselves. Chelante’ talked about the next topic, Quality of Family Relationships, and explained the Awareness of the child’s feelings as a subtitle. Building Courage and Self-Esteem was the fourth topic that was explained in the event. Think-Feel-Do Cycle, Reframing Feelings and Emotions, and how step-parents and other adults can fill roles and provide support were the subtitles for this part. The audience discussed strategies for helping children deal with negative emotions. When Chelante’ went through the next topic, Understanding and Redirecting Bad Behavior, she explained how emotions shape behavior. Chelante’ explained the next subject, Active Parenting for School Success, briefly and clearly. At this moment she talked about Communicating with Teachers, Home Schedule, Homework Time, Substance Abuse, Sexual Behavior, Communication and Encouraging Expression of Feelings. Co-parenting with explanation of the Importance of Communication, especially with an incarcerated parent, was the last topic that Chelante’ talked about that night. An attendee shared her experience parenting her son whose father is incarcerated, along with the challenges of maintaining communication between herself, her son, and the father. Chelante’ provided strategies for the mother and stepfather to engage with the child’s father. She also explained how to navigate co-parenting when both parents disagree on how to communicate with the child, and the benefits of creative outlets, such as art and journaling, were discussed.
In the full session of the class, each class topic yielded engaging discussion among the group, but the subjects of effective communication and co-parenting generated the largest amount of interest.
Chelante’ concluded with outcomes and goals of the classes, including stronger family relationships, ideas for positive behavior management, and better school communication.