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Truth and The Big Dinner A Story About Parental Incarceration Finding a silver lining when a parent goes to prison or jail Extant One Publishing Inc Avon Hart Johnson Publications LLC
Truth and The Big DinnerA Story About Parental IncarcerationFinding a silver lining when a parent goes to prison or jailαΩ∞Extant-One Publishing, Inc.& Avon Hart-Johnson Publications, LLC
Truth and e Big Dinner | Finding a Silver Lining When a Parent Goes to Prison ISBN: 978-0-9967410-2-6Copyright © 2019 by Renata Hedrington Jones. All rights reserved.is edition is published by DC Project Connect in arrangement with Extant-One Publishing, Inc. and Renata Hedrington Jones.Avon Hart-Johnson, Publications, LLC. All rights reserved.9103 Woodmore Centre Drive, Lanham, MD 20706, USAwww.dcprojectconnect.com | www.mystoryandme.comInternal Layout & Printed by:Anointed Press Graphics, Inc.,11191 Crain Highway, Cheltenham, MD 20623301.782.2285 | www.anointedpressgraphics.comIllustrated by:Miki Gilmore | www.mikigilmore.comis publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that the author and publishers are not engaged in rendering psychological, nancial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author and publisher.Printed & Published in the United States of America. First Paperback Edition/eBook EditionIllustrations by Miki Gilmore eBook voiceover by Monique DavisCover by Miki Gilmore Creative Consultant: Caidyn Zuri-Aloma Jones1. Study Aids/Self Help2. Family & Relationships/ Parental Incarceration/Grief and Loss/Coping
IntroductionAccording to the American Civil Liberties Union, since the 1970s, the number of Americans incarcerated in federal and state prisons, as well as local jails, increased by 700% (ACLU, 2019).i One of the collateral consequences of this phenomenon has been the adverse impact on children, leaving parents and caregivers at the forefront to address these issues without adequate intervention. While there are a growing number of resources available for families aected by incarceration, less attention is paid to how tools such as storybooks can be used as creative interventions to support aected children.Parental incarceration is now considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that 50% of children who witnessed a parent’s arrest were under seven (7) years of age (HHS, 2001).ii Today, incarceration rates have declined slightly, but tailored interventions to address the legacy of mass incarceration have lagged far behind. This book is designed for adults to read to their children (10 years of age and under). Parents and caregivers are encouraged to use this book and the website to create an interactive experience with children. A child’s opportunity to discuss his or her feelings with an understanding adult may play a critical role in supporting, healing, and building resilience in these young people.While this book was written for parents and caregivers, the text can be used by helping professionals as one of many integrative modalities. While stories about incarceration may not take the place of professional intervention by trained professionals, they can serve as a starting point for discussion about the unaddressed
emotions and feelings children may suppress when a parent is incarcerated. Supporting material to accompany this book, along with discussion guides, activity sheets, and resources for parents and children, can be found at: https://www.mystoryandme.comNotes:____________________________________________________________________iACLU. (2019). Mass Incarceration. Retrieve from https://www.aclu.org/issues/smart-justice/mass-incarcerationii U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS]. (2001). From prison to home: The eect of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/eects-parental-incarceration-young-children#The
Truth and The Big Dinner | 9Let’sBegin
Truth and The Big Dinner | 11Truth’s whole family prepared for “The Big Dinner.”Truth was seven years old and extremely excited about the upcoming family dinner at Auntie Lou Lou’s house. All the family members would be there.The family all lived in the same town, but they didn’t have big dinners together often. That’s why this dinner was so special. The night before the big dinner, Truth thought, I am so excited about the big dinner that I can’t sleep!Late that night, Truth climbed out of her bed in the darkness and tiptoed to the mirror. She looked in the mirror, using a ashlight under her chin, and tried to imagine a hairstyle for the big event.Truth noticed that she looked like her mother– beautiful, with lovely hair. In the morning, she would ask her Auntie to style her hair. She would be just as pretty as all the other girls in the family. That night Truth dreamed of how beautiful she would look for the big dinner.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 13When morning came, Truth woke to the smell of food that her Auntie Ellen was cooking for the big dinner.Auntie Ellen had pots and pans lled with food. She was busy creating her favorite recipes. This made her very happy.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 15Truth and her momma lived with Auntie Ellen in a purple house. Auntie Lou Lou lived in a yellow house next door, where the big dinner would be held. That morning of the big dinner, Truth could smell the food in the summer air, coming from both houses. Truth’s momma, her Auntie Ellen, and Auntie Lou Lou were her favorite people. Auntie Lou Lou was, indeed, like a second mother to Truth, even though she lived in the house next door. Long ago, Auntie Lou Lou gave “Truth” her name and jokingly explained, “The truth is better than a lie!”On the morning of the big dinner, Truth said to Auntie Ellen, “I haven’t seen my momma in a while.”Auntie Ellen said, “Sometimes, your momma doesn’t come home because she doesn’t want to hear me yell!”Truth thought to herself, Yell about what?
Truth and The Big Dinner | 17Finally, Auntie Ellen said it was time to get dressed and to style Truth’s hair. She styled it just the way Truth had imagined it in the mirror the night before. Her hair was beautiful. Truth believed that she looked more beautiful than all her cousins combined, and even prettier than her Aunties and the other grownups in the family! Even her dress was beautiful. Purple was Truth’s favorite color. Truth proudly skipped over to Auntie Lou Lou’s house to wait for the family to arrive.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 19Truth looked out the window of the home to see who else was coming to dinner. She saw a van coming down the street. Truth said, “I hope it is Big Mama.” Big Mamma had a big van because she used it to carry her wheelchair. Sometimes, Big Mamma would give Truth a ride on her motorized wheelchair.Truth shouted throughout the house, “It’s Big Mama and Uncle Dee! This is the best day ever! My cousins and family are arriving, and Momma should be here soon, too! Momma had better hurry, so she won’t be late for dinner. Oh my goodness, the food smells so good!”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 21Just then, Uncle Nat walked through the door, asking, “Where do I put the ice cream machine?” Truth was beyond excited. She loved homemade ice cream and loved to watch the ice cream being made. She remembered that it always tasted so good.Truth went back to the window, wondering aloud. “Where is my momma? She never misses a family dinner.This is the biggest dinner we have ever had, and it’s not even Thanksgiving. Momma must arrive soon!”Truth thought about the exciting day’s activities. We will jump rope, play hopscotch, and marbles, too. My momma better hurry and get here. She always wins when we play fun games! Right in the middle of Truth’s daydream, Big Mama startled everyone, catching them all off-guard with her loud, strong voice as she called everyone to prepare for dinner. Everyone laughed. No one dared to challenge Big Mamma. “I may not be able to catch you from my wheelchair, but my words will sting like a bee!” All the family laughed when Big Mama said that, especially her statement “sting like a bee.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 23The aunties started setting the table. Truth was nally ready to have the big dinner with her family–all the people she loved so dearly. Looking at the place settings, Truth asked her aunties, “Where is my mom?” No one answered. They just looked concerned.Momma must be running late, Truth thought to herself.Later, Auntie Ellen and Grandma Alice came into the house carrying more food and deserts. They were laughing so loudly and so hard that everyone else in the room started laughing, too, without knowing what was so funny. When Truth looked around, all she could see was happiness in the family; yet, she was missing her momma.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 25While the table was being set, Truth played with her cousins. She suddenly asked, within earshot of the other family members, “I wonder how long it’s going to be before my momma comes home?” Even though everyone heard her, no one answered; they just looked at each other.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 27Finally, Auntie Lou Lou asked all the family to be seated at the table. She looked at everyone around the table and said, “It’s time for a family talk.” Her tone of voice was serious, and she was concerned about what she was about to say.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 29Auntie Lou Lou looked at the adults in the room and said, “We are going to tell Truth the truth!”Truth was confused. She thought, Tell me what? Then, Auntie Lou Lou turned to Truth and said, “Baby, do you know the difference between the truth and a lie?”Truth said, “Yes, Ma’am. The truth is what you say when you are talking about something that is real.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 31Auntie Lou Lou said, “Sometimes, telling the truth makes us feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, the truth also hurts. There are people who love you very much and believe that they can protect you by not sharing the truth. They do not want you to feel bad or to be afraid, so they avoid telling the truth. Do you understand that?” Truth, nodded her head, “yes.” The other children sat quietly, listening, too. Auntie Lou Lou smiled. This made Truth feel comfortable. Then Auntie Lou Lou continued, “Truth, do you know what con-sequences are?” Truth said, “Yes, we face consequences in Girl Scouts when we don’t complete our projects.” Auntie Lou Lou said, “Yes, Truth, that’s right!” And “Do you know what choices are?” Truth said, “Yes, but… not really.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 32Auntie Lou Lou continued, “Sometimes, you eat too much candy and your tummy hurts. That is because it is a bad choice to eat too much.”Truth said, “I understand. The consequence of eating too much candy is a tummy ache!” Even though Truth understood what Aun-tie Lou Lou was saying, she became con-fused and frustrated. “Why is everyone talking about truth and lies?” she asked. “I just want to know when my momma is com-ing home. No one has told me when my mom-ma is coming to dinner. I even heard Cous-in Mabel in the kitchen when she said my momma ‘can’t come home unless she breaks through the bars at the jail!’” Auntie Lou Lou said, “You should not have heard about your momma that way. We should have told you.”Auntie Lou Lou said, “Truth, we want you to be happy. We want our young people to
Truth and The Big Dinner | 33be happy and not worry about us older peo-ple.” Truth said, “Auntie Lou Lou, I love being with you and all my family.”Auntie Lou Lou then said to Truth, “We apologize, and we are sorry for not telling you the truth about your momma. We apologize because we told you a ‘lie’ rath-er than the truth. We were trying to make you feel better because your mom has not been home. Truth, your momma won’t be coming to dinner today.” Truth was sad.“Remember, when we talked about choices?” Auntie Lou Lou said. “Well, your mom didn’t make the right choices and now she is in a place called jail. We don’t know how long she will be there. But we will always love you and take care of you while your momma is away. Do you understand that, Truth?”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 35Truth, in all her pretty curls and pretty dress, broke down and cried– in front of ev-eryone. Auntie Lou Lou and both grandmas all hugged her, together. Each in their own way said, “Truth, we will be with you always. Your family loves you.”Auntie Lou Lou said to Truth, “I know this is a lot of information. We can continue to talk about it. We don’t know all the details about your mom. But you can keep in touch by writing letters. You can color pictures and even speak with your momma on the phone. We do not want you to worry. Instead, we want you to do all the happy and fun things little princesses do.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 37Then Truth felt better. She wiped her eyes and thought about all that had been said. She asked her Auntie, “May I call my mom-ma now?” Auntie Ellen quickly answered, “Truth, your momma is supposed to call us this evening.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 39Later, the phone rang and one of the grandmas answered the call. It was a collect call from the jail. Grandma said, “Truth, it’s your momma.” Truth ran to the phone. “Hello, Momma,” Truth said. “I am sorry you are not here with the family today for the big dinner. Auntie Lou Lou, Auntie Ellen, and Grandma Alice sat me down and explained that you would be away for a while. They also told me they were sorry for not telling me the truth.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 40Momma don’t worry about me. I know you love me and will be home one day. I will be good. I am a big girl. I am seven years old. I have learned about lies and the truth. Oh, Momma, I am going to try to always tell the truth because it feels a lot better.”Then Truth asked her momma so many questions: “Momma, why did the police put you in jail?” Her momma answered, “I didn’t obey the rules.” Then Truth asked, “Were they mean to you?” Momma replied, “No, they were professional.” Truth asked, “Mommy, did you know you did not obey the rules?” Her Momma said, “Yes, but I ignored the rules. Now being here is the consequence of making poor choices. Truth, I should have told you the truth. I am sorry.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 41Then Truth said to her momma, “Thank you for telling me the truth. I love you!” Truth continued to talk about the big dinner with her mom.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 43Truth eagerly shared, “Uncle Dee and Uncle Nat made homemade ice cream and as soon as I nish talking to you, we will have dinner and afterwards, eat the best ice cream ever!”In saying goodbye, Truth gave her mom a big “air- kiss.” Finally, the family nished the big dinner, and Truth ran to get her ice cream. Truth was once again excited and happy.Auntie Lou Lou looked at the family gathered in the dining area and after a big deep sigh, she said to all of the relatives and especially to the grandmothers, “What is important is that we keep our little ones safe and remind them that we are one big supportive family, and they are loved.”
Truth and The Big Dinner | 44Uncle Dee added, “We are family and while we may still make some mistakes–sometimes, in not telling the truth- we have good intentions. It is our love that binds us together.” Truth was surrounded by all her many uncles, aunts, cousins and the rest of the family. She thought to herself, The love of family is so important, Truth knew in her heart that she was still missing her momma. But she felt happy to learn that her momma would be coming home one day and that her family’s love would help her to overcome the absence. Yes, the big dinner was wonderful, but most important, Truth had learned the lessons of truth, consequences, honesty, and the enduring love of family.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 45TheEnd
Truth and The Big Dinner | 47Note from the AuthorAs adults, we impress upon children the importance of telling the truth. However, telling young children the truth can be dicult and sensitive. At times, we even grapple with using the word “lie” and instead, we use euphemisms such as “telling-a-story” or “I told a white lie.” However, when using the word lie, we can begin to teach children the language of admitting when something is not truthful. Yes, the adage, “the truth will set you free” might be a wise analogy for honest discussions. Conversely, “the truth hurts” might provide reasons or an excuse to avoid dicult discussions. Telling children the truth about dicult topics such as parental incarceration may require bravery and courage. Yet, as with Truth’s family, sometimes our best intentions may not be the best approach. We may inuence children’s lives more than we know. As they grow and develop, it is important that adults model ways to help children to cope with conict and challenging life events. Further, it is helpful to also model ways to convey the truth(s) –even when it hurts. It is unclear what long-term impacts may arise from not being honest with children. Therefore, it may be wise to debunk the myths regarding “the truth hurts.” Working through these dilemmas of truth- telling can bring about an improved life for children and the family system. Further, the idea of family as a village may extend toward healthy and healthier communities. To each parent, caregiver, and helping professional/practitioner,
Truth and The Big Dinner | 48who share this book with children, you possess the potential to aect children positively. Perhaps this text can be used to generate conversations that will serve to uplift our children from pain and sorrow, and feelings of confusion and emotional conict. It is my hope that this book in some way contributes to your eorts to help children become wonderful individuals who develop ethics of truth, transparency, and honesty throughout their lives.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 49Stories as InterventionStories historically have been used to help children and adults nd meaning in certain life experiences. Truth and the Big Dinner is designed to assist those who care for children with an incarcerated parent with tools to help them understand they are not isolated or alone. Children like the ctional character, Truth, may need tools such as storybooks to help them understand and process emotions. Books such as this can help children to better understand family dynamics during dicult times such as parental incarceration.Children who are aected by the traumatizing experience of parental incarceration may not be able to articulate their feelings associated with separation and loss. In their minds, they may have lost a parent and, possibly, more. They may not be fully equipped socially, emotionally, or developmentally to express their feelings.The activities designed as companion resources for this book can be used to help children externalize their feelings. These resources can be used to help children give voice through nonverbal activities such as drawing, engaging in a scavenger hunt, and using other creative activities oered in the companion resources link on our website: https://mystoryandme.com Remember to always consult with a helping professional if you think that your child is in need of psychiatric or mental-health support.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 50We hope that when parents and caregivers use this book to read and discuss with their children, it may lead to young children learning to see life events as they are and not a problem that they have created themselves. We hope that they then can begin to make meaning of their lives and develop resilience. Respectfully,Dr. Georey Johnson, Co-Principle Researcher and author of Rocko’s Guitar; Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, Principle Researcher, and author of Baby Star Finds Happy; & Dr. Renata Hedrington-Jones, Co-Principle Researcher and author of Truth and The Big Dinner. The Storybook Research Project Team Authors (shown left to right, respectively).
Truth and The Big Dinner | 51About the AuthorDr. Renata A. Hedrington Jones is originally from Chicago, Il., and is a product Washington, DC Public Schools. She is currently a resident in central Virginia. She is married to Lonnie Jones, Sr. and has three adult children, Lonnie, Jr., (Larena), Charles, and Miyah. She is the proud grandmother (Umi) of the most beautiful grand children in n the world, Caidyn and Sundiata. Cooking is her personal therapy and her passion. She is the daughter of Claudius E. Hedrington, Sr., and Ellen Norman Hedrington. She believes in family and the love of family.Dr. Hedrington Jones earned her doctorate in Human Services (Administration) at Walden University. She is also a charter member of the Tau Upsilon Alpha (Alpha Chi Chapter, Walden University) Human Services Honor Society; earned MSW at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA) with a focus in School Social Work and Micro Social Work; attended Virginia Intermont College and received a BA in Social Work. While an undergrad student her love and passion for social work began. She is interested in Family Preservation, Children and Families, the School to Prison Pipeline, and Mass Incarceration. The demise of the family is obvious in our society today. However, she also nds that those families who have experienced a parental incarceration experiences are impacted greatly. She strongly believes and asserts that we can make a dierence if we investigate, explore, and determine what we must do to impact social change in this area.
Truth and The Big Dinner | 52Dr. Hedrington Jones was employed in the public education arena for 30 years. Her career began as a Licensed School Social Worker, then promoted to Senior School Social Worker, earned a promotion to Specialists and retired as Coordinator, Medicaid & Special Projects. As a school social worker she served as a lobbyist for the RAVT/VVT/SSW (Richmond Association of Visiting Teachers & School Social Workers & Virginia Association of Visiting Teachers/School Social Workers) & SSWAA (School Social Worker Association of America).Prior to the school system she was employed in mental health as a Transition Specialists and a residential supervisor for the mentally ill. She also worked as an Adoption Social Worker. In this position she facilitated groups for prospective adoptive parents, counseled children in preparation of adoption, served as social worker to parents placing their children up for adoption, and as a clinical social worker in the counseling and mental health department. She worked in the Department of Corrections as a project supervisor, which is equivalent to a correctional ocer; as a Correctional Institutional Rehabilitative Counselor, and as a Correctional Institutional Rehabilitative Supervisor. She also volunteers facilitating parenting groups. Dr. Hedrington Jones continue to serve the community by sitting on various boards involved with social issues and social change. She is also a Core Faculty member at her Alma Mater, Walden University.Dr. Hedrington Jones was awarded the Nia Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Black Social Workers in April 2018 at the 50th Anniversary of this illustrious organization. Dr. Hedrington Jones is a member of the Richmond Association of
Truth and The Big Dinner | 53Black Social Workers. It is with this organization of dedicated social workers that she fuels her re for the people she loves and know that “A Change is Gonna Come”. She is a member of the Richmond Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she is an involved member who takes Delta’s initiatives seriously and to heart. She is also working with the Delta Research & Education Foundation by being the Virginia Representative along with Danielle Miles (Arlington Alumnae) and the DMV as they work diligently to implement the DTEC/DTAG initiative to impact the inequities in public education.
AcknowledgmentsThis Children’s book is a part of a project we aectionately call “The Storybook Research Project.” Through focus groups and individual interviews held in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, our research team gained a breadth of knowledge about communication between parents, caregivers, and their children regarding parental incarceration. Insights, lessons learned, and tips from parents and caregivers who participated in the study are integrated in our website resources for families and children. As we continue our quest to bring about social change that renders healing for those aected by mass incarceration, we oer our thanks to the countless families who, in the midst of their own perils, were willing to contribute to research in hopes that their contributions will yield such interventions as our children’s books. We also acknowledge the following individuals who contributed to the “Storybook Research Project” and ultimately made this project a success: Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson (Author & Principle Researcher), Dr. Renata Hedrington-Jones (Author & Co-Principle Researcher), Dr. Georey Johnson (Author & Co-Principle Researcher), Dr. Brenda Fawcett (Child-Psychologist), Ms. Miki Gilmore (Web Developer/Graphic Artist), Ms. Rhythm Bowers (Graphic Artist), Monique Davis (Voiceover Talent), Ms. Madra Cochrane (Project Manager). and Caidyn Zuri-Aloma Jones (Creative Consultant). We also wish to thank Walden University, who sponsored the research project through a 2018 Faculty Research Initiative Grant. Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson is the Principle Researcher for this project and currently a contributing faculty member at Walden University. She is the author
of Baby Star Finds “Happy.” Dr. Georey Johnson (Co-Principle Researcher) is the author of Rocko’s Guitar. Dr. Renata Hedrington-Jones (Co-Principle Researcher), is a core faculty member at Walden University. She is the author of this book, Truth and the Big Dinner.