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See Us, Support Us Month: Honoring Children of Incarcerated Parents

A month-long nationwide campaign to reduce stigma and increase support for children of people who are currently incarcerated.

see us support us
One in 5 Americans have had a parent incarcerated, and this month we recognize the children separated from their incarcerated parents.

For many of us, the fall season is a marker of family time. As the weather cooled down, we’d usually gather around each other and enjoy a number of seasonal holiday traditions. Fall will look a little different this year, but as we continue to adapt to a more distant reality, we can’t forget the families who have been forced to keep their distance, even before the pandemic began. 

This October, FWD.us is proud to be a part of See Us, Support Us – a month-long nationwide campaign led by the Osborne Association to reduce stigma and increase support for children of people who are currently incarcerated. One in 5 Americans have had a parent incarcerated, and this month we recognize the children separated from their incarcerated parents. Though the impacts of the incarceration crisis are so widely felt, children of incarcerated parents are often invisible to those around them. When they are seen, they often face harmful stereotypes and narratives, stigmatizing them and driving their needs further into the shadows. It’s up to all of us to stand with and support these children, treat them with respect and dignity, and work to serve their needs.

We join a strong nationwide coalition, including the Osborne Association, We Got Us Now, Arizona State University’s Center for Child Wellbeing, and many other local and national organizations, as we focus on this year’s theme: educational success from early childhood through college. Educators are often the first line of defense when a child is experiencing emotional challenges. With the unique challenges that educators face teaching children during the pandemic, the need for resources to support children in the classroom who have incarcerated parents is especially urgent. 

There are several ways to get involved. Join the campaign and post on your social media accounts to raise awareness. Join New Orleans Pelicans player Zylan Cheatham and donate to the Empathy Through Literacy project, an initiative that aims to get books that feature a child impacted by incarceration as the main character into libraries across Arizona. Send a teacher the “5 Tips for Educators” to see and support children of incarcerated parents in their own classrooms. Support the call for free phone and video calls so that families don’t go broke keeping parents in touch with their children.

During See Us, Support Us month and always, we must fight to change the systems that separated these families in the first place.

As we recognize See Us, Support Us month, we cannot ignore the times that we’re in. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our country, and it has hit children of incarcerated parents especially hard. Even one night away from a parent can be destabilizing, and the trauma of separation is compounded as prisons and jails around the nation have suspended in-person visits. Children want and need meaningful relationships with their parents. When those relationships are disrupted, kids are more likely to show signs of depression, anxiety, and aggression. The experience of having a parent incarcerated has been shown to cause emotional stress and financial hardship, both of which affect the emotional and developmental growth of children. Teachers’ perceptions of children’s academic proficiency due to hurtful stereotypes have even been shown to make children more likely to repeat a grade. While learning is constantly evolving to fit current safety precautions, kids with more needs due to parental incarceration may be left behind. Even more worrisome are the emotional outcomes of having to worry about a parent’s health and safety while they stay behind bars during the deadliest pandemic in a century. 

While we push for policies to preserve family bonds and support families during and after their loved ones are incarcerated, our North Star is to end America’s incarceration crisis altogether. Now more than ever, it’s clear that the criminal justice system is a public health crisis. For decades, families have told us prisons aren’t safe. For decades, families have told us prisons aren’t sanitary. For decades, families have led the charge for safer, healthier alternatives to incarceration. It’s past time we start listening. During See Us, Support Us month and always, we must fight to change the systems that separated these families in the first place.

While we spend more time at home, we remember the families who won’t get to share intimate fall moments. We remember the children who’ll eat their meals with an empty place at the table, who won’t get to feel the warmth of a big, comforting, endearing hug this fall. Today and everyday, we see you, and we support you. 

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