MISSION AND HISTORY
The Youth Voice Project, conceptualized as a health communication campaign for children with incarcerated parents (CIP), is aimed at the dissemination of health information, coupled with resources which can assist in better health and well-being for this population. The campaign design takes a two-pronged approach – one addressing health, and the other the stigma associated with being a CIP, which has been shown to compound the adverse effects of parental incarceration (Adalist-Estrin 2006).
This research is guided by the data demonstrating the negative short and long-term physical and mental health effects of parental incarceration which is classified as one of the “stressful or traumatic events” falling under the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) categories (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2017). Other ACEs are emotional, physical and sexual abuse, emotional and physical neglect, violent treatment of the mother, household substance abuse, mental illness in the household and parental separation or divorce. The more ACEs present within a child’s life, the more cumulatively damaging these can be to their overall health and well-being throughout their lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), ACEs have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. ACEs are also “strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan” including risky health behaviors such as substance abuse (SAMHSA, 2017). This makes CIP more prone to chronic health conditions such as depression, anxiety and high-blood pressure (Wakefield and Wildeman 2014).
In addition to these health concerns, parental incarceration is further considered a unique ACE with a combination of trauma, shame and stigma (Hairston 2007) which may not necessarily be present in the case of other kinds of ACEs. Luther (2016), in a study about the stigma management strategies undertaken by CIP, discusses Goffman’s work on the concept of “spoiled identity”. She states that in the case of CIPs, their identities are co-opted into that of their incarcerated parents’ identity and this results in stigmatization of these children by group association (Goffman 1963). More specifically in this context, Adalist-Estrin (2006) discusses the exacerbation of this stigma through the “conspiracy of silence” as well as the external pressures these children face, resulting in feelings of fear, worry, confusion, sadness, guilt, loyalty conflict/isolation, embarrassment, and anger: They also face a host of potential mental and behavioral health problems (Wakefield and Wildeman 2014) due to both internally and externally stigmatizing factors these children have to cope with on a daily basis. This scholarship combined with the CTCIP Initiative’s guiding principle of combating stigmatization (CIP 2014) against CIP forms the foundation of the Youth Voice outreach and media campaign. The theoretical basis for this campaign draws on the culture-centered approach (CCA), focusing on the community as the expert, based in the paradigm of university-community engagement discussed as the focus of this piece.
The study design primarily draws on the culture-centered approach (CCA) to health communication interventions in marginalized communities. CCA explores the ways in which experiences of well-being and health are understood and voiced by participants in their interactions with the formal structures of care that surround their lives (Dutta, 2008). CCA places a special emphasis on bringing the voices of communities, such as the CIP, to the mainstream, and creating spaces of social change through an articulation of their needs. In utilizing this approach in the Youth Voice project, CIP and community members from the communities of New Britain, Hartford, and Bridgeport will be positioned as experts who not only provide us with data on their experience of health as well as stigma (affecting health outcomes), but will participate actively in the decision-making process regarding the creation of the media based intervention. This centering of community participants as experts in the process is demonstrated through the project trajectory following the four distinct phases noted below.
Data gathering (through surveys, interviews, focus groups) from Children with Incarcerated Parents (CIP) on their health and social stigma issues, with a focus on deriving solutions from within the community, by placing decision-making in the hands of the CIP, drawing on the culture centered approach (CCA).
Data gathering (through surveys) from non-CIP adult community members, on their knowledge of health issues faced by CIP, and their attitudes or stigma towards CIP.
Based on the aforementioned data gathering process, creating an intervention, based on which educational media materials will be disseminated in the cities of New Britain, Hartford, and Bridgeport.
Demonstrating positive evaluative measures in the change in knowledge and attitude of community members (external stigma) and CIPs perceptions of themselves (internalized stigma), additionally creating greater knowledge of resources available to them.
Adalist-Estrin, Ann. 2006. Providing Support to Adolescent Children with Incarcerated Parents.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study.
Children with Incarcerated Parents Initiative. 2014. Community engagement grant addendum, guiding principles 2014.
Dutta, M. J. (2008). Communicating health: A culture-centered approach. Malden, MA: Polity.
Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hairston, Creasie. F. 2007. Focus on the children with incarcerated parents: An overview of the research literature.
Luther, Kate. 2016. Stigma Management among Children of Incarcerated Parents. Deviant Behaviour, 37(11), 1264-1275.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2017. Adverse childhood Experiences.
Wakefield, Sara and Christopher Wildeman. 2014. Children of the Prison Boom. New York: Oxford University Press.
If there are any questions about, or interest in participating in the study, please contact the Principal Investigator Dr. Rati Kumar.
Dr. Rati Kumar
Office: (860) 832.2432
Duane P. Pierre
Sedale Williams, MSW
Youth Advocacy Coordinator