Work­ing hard to keep the chain un­bro­ken

Dayton Daily News - - IDEAS & VOICES / BALANCED VIEWS - By Jonathan Platt Yel­low Springs res­i­dent Jonathan Platt is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Story Chain.

I’ve never been di­rectly af­fected by a gov­ern­ment shut­down ... un­til now. My non-profit, Story Chain and Friends of Story Chain, has been work­ing with in­car­cer­ated moth­ers and fa­thers who want to read to their chil­dren. Story Chain vis­its county jails and con­ducts lit­er­acy cour­ses that help max­i­mize the voices of the par­ents.

Af­ter six weeks of work­shops in the jails, fo­cus­ing on book choice and dis­cus­sion dur­ing the first half, and de­liv­ery and pro­jec­tion of voice in the sec­ond half, we then edit and down­load their sto­ries on dig­i­tal de­vices. At the lo­cal li­brary clos­est to the care­giver, the child re­ceives the mp3 player and the books used in the record­ing.

Story Chain has been op­er­at­ing for four years mainly in Greene County, but this year we are ex­pand­ing to sev­eral oth­ers that in­clude Mont­gomery, Mi­ami and Clark.

Late last year, Story Chain re­ceived its big­gest grant ever: $42,750 from the Vic­tims of Crime Act run by Mike DeWine’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral of­fice. This was a spec­tac­u­lar boost for us, be­cause it em­pha­sized Story Chain’s com­mit­ment to the chil­dren who re­ceive the books and mp3 play­ers. Even though we don’t meet the child un­til the end of the par­ent’s train­ing, our pro­gram is about and for the child. The voice the chil­dren hear through the head­phones is prob­a­bly the only ma­ter­nal/pa­ter­nal con­nec­tion they have re­ceived since the par­ent was in­car­cer­ated. The VOCA grant, how­ever, has been sus­pended due to the gov­ern­ment shut­down. We are thank­ful for any fund­ing, but fidu­ciary dis­rup­tions can rock a frag­ile non-profit such as ours down to a very shaky ex­is­tence.

Now that we are rec­og­nized as a pro­gram that as­sists vic­tims of crime, we can set our sights on at­tend­ing to the child’s ad­verse ex­pe­ri­ence and the trauma con­nected to it. Dr. Na­dine Blake Har­ris, founder and CEO of the Cen­ter of Youth Well­ness at the Cal­i­for­nia Pa­cific Med­i­cal Cen­ter Bayview Child Health Cen­ter, dur­ing her fa­mous TED-Talk, claims a child with an in­car­cer­ated par­ent is con­sid­ered to have ex­pe­ri­enced ad­ver­sity. Ad­ver­sity is what Dr. Har­ris calls ACEs (Ad­verse Child­hood Ex­pe­ri­ences) and cor­re­lates it di­rectly to health.

The more ACEs in a child’s life (which in­clude, among oth­ers, divorce, sex­ual as­sault, do­mes­tic abuse and in­car­cer­a­tion of a fam­ily mem­ber) the more sus­cep­ti­ble the child is to a mul­ti­ple ar­ray of health risks in­clud­ing lung can­cer, heart dis­ease and sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies. Of course, we can­not re­verse ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences — but we can be part of the rem­edy.

“Our job,” claims Dr. Har­ris, “is to use this sci­ence for pre­ven­tion and treat­ment.” Story Chain can bridge the trauma of sepa­ra­tion by giv­ing the child and par­ent hope in stay­ing con­nected. But the gov­ern­ment shut­down has made this a chal­lenge. Fund­ing is also de­nied to all grants re­lated to Vi­o­lence Against Women and Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice; pro­grams on the front line in treat­ing ad­ver­sity and trauma.

Nev­er­the­less, we will con­tinue. The lack of funds has not stopped us in the past. The sher­iff ’s de­part­ment of Greene County pays for the mp3 play­ers and Greene County Pub­lic Li­brary buys the books. Story Chain lends it­self to com­mu­nity out­reach and the com­mu­nity re­sponds. The Ro­tary Club of Day­ton gave us a mon­e­tary boost last fall and scores of vol­un­teer hours and an­other in­fu­sion of cash was given to us by UpDay­ton with its mes­sage of cre­at­ing the Day­ton we (you) want. Story Chain may be short on funds, but we are far from be­ing shut down.

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