I settled my son into his 4th grade classroom this morning, as part of that familiar First Day of School ritual. I helped him unload a mountain of school supplies from the plaid Burton backpack we purchased together last week—an early birthday present that cost way, way too much money for my tastes.
As I departed the cheery school environment, I thought of the children of incarcerated parents who begin a new school year today alongside our children.
In 2011, according to Vermont DOC Facts & Figures, 40-percent of incarcerated women (and 28-percent of men) were the parents of minor children. (Those numbers seem low to me based on my experiences of writing with inmate women.)
Anyway, add to the scary feelings of new teacher and classmates, the reality that your parent is in jail and unable to buy you a new pack of Crayolas, for example, or meet you at the afternoon bus drop-off. This child enters school with a serious stigma through no fault of his/her own. It’s not hard to envision the trauma such an experience wreaks on a developing child.
Thankfully, Lund’s Kids-A-Part program works with children and families of incarcerated women at Chittenden Correctional Facility, helping nourish those vital relationships, as well as offering moms valuable parenting and communication skills.
That said, what is our responsibility in all of this? Hopefully, you feel you have one.
As parents, are we obsessed with surrounding our children with only the best, most advantageous friendships–in other words, with kids whose parents are like us, well-educated and well-resourced?!
Am I concerned about the bedraggled child sitting near my son who doesn’t have the sneakers and supplies she needs to be successful in school? Is there an active role for me to play in supporting her? I plan to ponder these personal questions during the coming school year.