Working hard to keep the chain unbroken
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.