The year before I launched #blkcreatives in 2012, I worked at Youth Villages, a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. Located just outside of Memphis, Tennessee (my second hometown!) the Bartlett Campus, where I worked, provides residential mental health treatment for boys ages 8-17 and girls 11-17 who have serious emotional and behavioral problems. I served as a residential youth counselor and this was my job description in a nutshell:
- Provided the setting for an intensive treatment program that combines the unique balance of structure and freedom which enables children and their families to identify, understand and cope with their individual needs and develop the skills necessary to succeed in less restrictive settings.
- Balances team and individual responsibility, presents documentation in computer database system effectively, maintains confidentiality, and responds promptly to client needs.
But as you know, a job description only scratches the surface of what you really do at a job and my time at Youth Villages was no different. It was one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had. While I can’t get into the full details (because, confidentiality), I will say that it’s an experience that’s completely changed the way I look at children and families who are impacted by oppressive systems in this country. Working with girls who have been faced various levels of trauma taught me that there’s so much that can be done before a child even makes a choice to go down a certain path. It also taught me that the trauma that children deal is a reflection of where we are as a society and where we are going.
I won’t place judgement on what’s bad or what’s good because many of these choices come from a place of survival. These decisions, while they may impact a child’s life, are sometimes made with the information that’s at hand. And as someone who has family members that have been incarcerated for most of my life, I understand the effects that the system can have on the families of those imprisoned. It’s an experience that impacts our communities for generations and we want to begin to support those who are providing solutions.
This March, we at #blkcreatives are looking to support Children Of Promise, a Brooklyn organization that is working to embrace children of incarcerated parents & empower them to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system. In 2009, Sharon Content founded Children of Promise, NYC (CPNYC) after growing increasingly concerned about the lack of support offered to young people who experience parental incarceration.
CPNYC is the first and only after-school program and summer day camp specifically designed to meet the needs, interests and concerns of children left behind by a parent serving time in prison. Since its inception, we have provided services to over 1,500 children and their families. The org has also established it's own innovative and holistic model to support children of incarcerated parents in leading healthy and productive lives.
#blkcreatives was also built to support and give back to our communities as we’re building our careers, and this fundraiser is a start.