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Our Children’s Place (OCP) is a private nonprofit agency committed to the children of incarcerated parents. We strive to be a leading North Carolina advocate and educational resource focused on these children and the need for a statewide response to ensure their well-being.                                          
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Orange is NOT the New Black for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Not too long ago I watched the Diane Sawyer special, A Nation of Women Behind Bars. The first thing that struck me about her report was that the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world!  There are 200,000 women in prison (see the link to the report at the end of this column). The second thing that struck me about her report was that we heard little about the children impacted by a parent or parents behind bars. Yet the Sentencing Project found that in state prisons women are more likely to have minor children than men (62% versus 51%) and 64% of mothers as opposed to 47% of fathers lived with their children prior to incarceration.
Sawyer spent eight months visiting four prisons for females. She reported that 63% were incarcerated for non-violent crimes and the ratio of black to white women is 2:1. Sawyer also reported that there has been a 14% increase in the number of women given life sentences in the US in the past seven years. As I watched this program I thought about how women are depicted as inmates in popular culture and that the reality of incarceration is softened by shows such as Orange is the New Black. It is difficult to see authentic family relationships and the true impact of prison on children through the lenses of these shows. 
When at last we saw something about children in Sawyer’s special it was at the end of the report. We finally saw an older black woman interacting with her grandson; however, I wondered what had life been like for her daughter, the mother of that grandson. For the daughter’s entire life her mother had been incarcerated. How did the daughter manage with her mother in prison and how did she maintain a relationship with her imprisoned mother? 
Shows like Sawyer’s focus on prison but there is also a compelling need to discuss the situation with our jails. One of the best reports outlining the issue of jailing in America was conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice (see link below).
According to the Vera Institute in a typical year there are about 12 million people admitted into prisons across the US. That is more than the population of the state of North Carolina (estimated to be about 9.9 million in 2014 according to the US Census Bureau QuickFacts). Often people use the terms prison and jail interchangeably, however, there are differences. Most prisons are run by state or federal entities (either directly or through private contractors) while jails are under local jurisdiction. 

Think about what that means for millions of children who have a parent or parents with some sort of jail experience. So when we speak about children with incarcerated parents let us not forget those who have jail experience. And realize that as the country with the most people behind bars in the world the child sitting next to you on the train, or in line with you at the grocery store or sitting in church, mosque, or temple with you may be one of those children with a parent in prison or jail.
The photo above was taken in the Nashville airport. The onesie is a bright, bold orange with the front reading: “I just did nine months on the inside” and tally marks equaling nine just below the words. I have a great sense of humor but equating gestation with incarceration is plain wrong. There is nothing funny in that and such sentiment serves to trivialize the seriousness of time behind bars. It is a punishment and there should be nothing equating pregnancy with punishment. This is in part why we advocate so strongly for the children of incarcerated parents – these children need to know they are valued and have an important purpose to fulfill in our society. At Our Children’s Place we put children at the center of our work. 

Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson is the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and director of Africana Women’s Studies at Bennett College in Greensboro. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Our Children’s Place and serves on the Steering Committee for the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. Dr. Johnson is the current chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, a member of the North Carolina Historical Commission, and an advisory member of the Institute of African American Research at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.   


The Sentencing Project's Report on Incarcerated Women

Vera Institute's Report
Hot Off the Press!
Our Children's Place has been fortunate to receive some good media coverage in the past few months.

We were invited to submit a guest blog piece for the Sesame Workshop folks that was posted in late January:

Why We Need to Care About Children With Incarcerated Parents

The Huffington Post picked up the piece and ran it on their site as well.

Around the same time we received word that Melissa Radcliff, our Executive Director, was named one of seven
2015 Indy Citizen Award winners.

We continue to seek out opportunities within both traditional and social media in order to raise awareness about children of incarcerated parents and how communities can best support them.
What Can I Do?
  • Think about the language we use to describe those currently or formerly in prison and how that sounds to a child whose parent is or has been incarcerated.
  • Do you know a professional who works with children? Tell them about the Sesame Street materials focused on children of incarcerated parents and encourage them to contact us to request a copy.
  • Learn more about the jail or prison facility in your community. How do they address the issue of children?
Life At Our Children's Place
Since our fall newsletter we have been involved in a number of awareness activities including:

Presented to:
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Chapel Hill Graduate Chapter
American Board of Pediatrics staff holiday gathering
Chapel Hill Bible Church
Knit One, Pray Too (and Crochet) group
Chapel Hill Knitting for Charity group

Durham County GALs (Guardian ad Litem)
Durham County Health Department
Elders for Peace at Carol Woods
Front Street United Methodist Church

Healthy Social Behaviors Initiative
Mebane Women's Club
North Carolina Association for the Education for Young Children (
NCAEYC), NC2 Affiliate
North Carolina Center for
Afterschool Programs annual conference
St. Francis of Assisi Franciscan School

UNC Honors in American History class

Elon University -  "Breaking the Cycle of Incarceration" discussion, part of Black History Month
Straight Talk Support Group's film screening of Middle of Nowhere

Resource Tables
North Carolina Peace Booth
Straight Talk Support Group

Radio Show

WUNC's The State of Things

We appreciate both the invitations and the "let me connect you with . . ." offers. Please keep them coming!
What Can I Do?
  • Is your group interested in a presentation? Call us at (919) 904-4286 or e-mail at to schedule one.
  • Does your organization host a conference? We'd love to submit a workshop proposal!
  • Invite us to write a guest blog/newsletter piece.
Chris' Corner
This is an exciting time for Our Children's Place. Over the past six months we have found several new supporters who have helped poise us to move into the future. And our work of raising awareness, of advocacy, and of making important connections has continued.

We recently held Parent Day at Orange Correctional Center (see story below) where 16 children and 12 fathers spent the day playing games, making crafts, and just having time together. Important connections indeed. Thanks to the volunteers and prison staff who were able to make that event happen. 

Since that time we have talked with three other prisons who are interested in hosting their own Parent Day.

We continue to raise awareness too, participating in a panel discussion on the effects of incarceration at Elon University.

And a dedicated group of Board members is working on a sustainability plan to carry Our Children's Place into its next phase. These conversations have been inspiring, thought-provoking, and, at times, a little challenging, as we are truly in a pivotal (and exciting) time. We've had tough discussions about what we will be in the future. Are we going to be a direct service agency? Are we going to be more active in shaping policy (local and/or state)? Are we going to do some of both? What about the great networking and relationship-building that happens when we travel the state to speak as a voice for the children of incarcerated parents? All of these questions (and many more) have been heard as part of our work to plan for the future.

Wherever these conversations lead, I am very confident that Our Children's Place will emerge more focused and even better prepared to carry our work forward. I'm looking forward to it!

With gratitude,
Chris Blue
Chair, Board of Directors
A Day With Dad Is All About Connections
Following two weeks of cold, messy winter weather, Parent Day at the Peace Center on Saturday, February 28 proved to be a bright spot for 16 children and 12 fathers who spent the day together playing board games and corn hole toss (with some pretty intense competition!) and putting together puzzles (see above), eating lunch prepared by men at the prison’s cook school, picking out books for the children to take home, using clay to make tiles for picture frames that will hold pictures of children and fathers that a volunteer took, watching the Sesame Street DVD featuring Alex, a Muppet whose father is in jail, talking, laughing, and more. And, yes, there were tears at the end.
Meanwhile, the children’s caregivers and volunteers gathered at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church and watched the Sesame Street DVD, talked about their experiences, heard about a local support group and a mediation program for people with loved ones in prison or leaving prison, ate lunch together, and offered support to one another.
Parent Day is sponsored by the Pre-Release Committee of the Community Resource Council at Orange Correctional Center and Our Children’s Place and is truly a team effort. A big “thank you” to the folks who made this one possible:

Bobbie Ackerly
Yasmine Arrington
Asta Crowe
Maria Darlington
Bessie Elmore
Anna Falkovich
Nancy Fisher
Janet Flowers
Claire Lyons
Brenda McNeely-Allen and Dwight Allen
Carolyn Stewart and Richard Miller
Marya Plotkin
Ann Shy
Kristen Smith and Dylan Young
Mary Anne and Wayne Vanderburg
Jane Williams
Chapel Hill Restaurant Group
Hillsborough Presbyterian Church
Lowes Home Improvement
Ms. Hughes and Ms. Sutton, Orange Correctional Center staff
Chaplain Dave Nickel, Alamance-Orange Prison Ministry.
What Can I Do?
  • Donate supplies for the next Parent Day - food, drinks, paper products, art supplies, books, store gift cards, etc. We are talking with three other prisons that are interested in hosting their own Parent Day.
  • Ask if a prison/jail in your community would consider hosting Parent Day at their facility.
Camp Hope . . . Trust, Hope, Love
Do you know a child with an incarcerated parent who might be interested in attending camp this summer in western North Carolina with other children of incarcerated parents? If so, please contact Terry Brubaker at (252) 637-9177 or
For more information, go to the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Carolina.
Hats Off!
Board Chair Chris Blue shows off one of the wonderful hats made by the women at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW). He helped staff our table at the United Church of Chapel Hill alternative market.
Another successful market "season" came to a close in early December. Thank you, as always, to our wonderful markets hosts:
First Presbyterian Church, Durham
Grace United Methodist Church, Wilmington
Immaculate Conception Church, Durham
Orange United Methodist Church, Chapel Hill

Parker and Otis, Durham
St. Francis of Assisi Church, Raleigh
St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Chapel Hill

United Church, Chapel Hill

Thank you also to the amazing students at East Chapel Hill High School who sorted the hats based on size and tied ribbons on them: Anna, Bessy, Jamie, Julie, Zach, and Beverly Taylor-Jones (staff)
And to the great volunteers who staffed our tables:

Mary Andrews
Rhonda Angerio
Chris Blue (see his picture above)
Daniel Bowes

Dorothy Cilenti
Gregg Cusick
Shirley Drechsel
Joseph Jordan
Ellie Kinnaird
Claire Lyons
Kathleen Shapley-Quinn
Tony Shook
Mary Stowe

Katie Wakeford

And last, but definitely not least, thanks to all of YOU who stopped by, asked questions, told a friend, and made a donation in exchange for a hat or other handcrafted item.

Fall 2014 marked the first year of our hats partnership with Mothers And Their Children (MATCH). MATCH is a special family resources center within the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW). One of the MATCH programs brings children of incarcerated women to NCCIW to visit with their mothers. Inside the prison, MATCH runs an enhanced visitation center strictly for the mothers and their children to share.

Funds raised with the hats will continue to support our awareness and outreach efforts as well as transportation needs of children involved with MATCH.
What Can I Do?
  • Do you knit and/or crochet? Consider making and donating hats to Our Children's Place. We anticipate our hats project becoming more of a joint effort between hat creaters at the women's prison and in the community.
  • Donate yarn! Hat creation happens year round. You can drop off yarn (full and partial skeins) at Yarns, etc. in Chapel Hill and Great Yarns in Raleigh. Thanks to the wonderful folks there for being our drop off sites.
  • Take a "selfie" of you wearing one of our cute hats and send it to us. We're always looking for new photos!
Sharing Our Inbox
We think it's great when folks share with us resources they come across. Keep them coming!

Here are a few:

How A Parent's Incarceration Mentally and Emotionally Scars Their Children

Parents' Incarceration Takes Toll on Children, Studies Say

Mass Incarceration's Collateral Damage: The Children Left Behind

Hopefully these are resources you can use in your community to start or continue the conversation about children of incarcerated parents.
What Can I Do?
  • Keep sending us materials you run across!
  • “Like” us on Facebook; we post updates and links to resources several times a week.
Saying "Good Bye!"
Gayle Harris completed her Board term in early December. We'll miss her and her public health perspective. Fortunately for us she has graciously offered to be just a phone call or e-mail away if we need anything.
Our Wonderful Supporters
A big “THANK YOU!” goes out to the following individuals and organizations for their support
donated July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014. *
Annual Appeal
Patricia Barron and Nathan Berolzheimer
Ginny and Don Berg
Irene and Robert Briggaman
Glenn and Margaret Brown
Mark and Paula Brown
Carol Candler and Andy Dobelstein
George and Christine Cianciolo
Dorothy Cilenti
Marie and Mark Crissman in honor of Jim and Kathy Roberson
Asta Crowe
Maureen and Dennis Darcey
Martha and David Dill
Bobette Eckland and Richard Kamens
Diane Eilber and Gene Medler
Rosmarie Faust
Shirley Geissinger
Isaac Green
Jean Gross and Donald Miller
Norman and Nancy Gustaveson
Joe Hackney
Carolyn and Henry Hammond in honor of Rhonda Angerio
Linda King-Thomas and Henry Thomas, Jr.
Paul Kinnaird
Solomon Kobes
Diane and James LeLoudis
Katherine Leith
Connie and Steve Mullinix
Char and James Murphy
Peggy Oettinger
Catha Grace Rambusch
Nancy and Erik Rambusch
Geri and Ed Rayford
Susan Robinson
Rich Rosen and Rebecca Slifkin
Lawrence and Sarah Smiley
Cassie Smith
Catherine Smith
Franklin Tew
Peter and Jean Vaughn
Katie Wakeford and Gregg Cusick
Nancy Walker
Gail Wood in memory of Wallace Wood

Rose Azar
Pamela Moore Battaglia and Paul Battaglia
Laurie Birdsong
Daniel Bowes
Mary and Alan Bushnell

Jeffrey Chambers
Schree and Dragomir Chavdarov
S.R. Deal
Annaliese Dolph in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's birthday
Ying Du
Sid and Rachel Eagles
Cara Faucette
Victoria Freeman and Charles Humble
Kari Hamel in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's birthday
Elizabeth Hambourger in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's birthday
Carolyn and Lynn Ikenberry
Sandy and Deane Irving
Valerie Ann Johnson
Shelagh Kenney in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's birthday
Ellie Kinnaird in honor of Elizabeth Hambourger's birthday
Pam Kott
Cedric Lumsdon and Gil McWilliam
Dawn Manus
Alexa McKerrow and Milo Payne
Elizabeth and David Mullaney
Barry Nakell
Jill Nenninger

Barbara and Paul Nettesheim
Kristin Parks in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's birthday
Stanley and Carolyn Peele
Dan Pollitt and Linda Weisel in honor of Ellie Kinnaird's Birthday
Edith and Gary Poole
Melissa and Guy Price
Nancy and Erik Rambusch
Geri and Ed Rayford

Mary Roberts
Nancy Seaman and Alan Schwartz, Schwartz Family Foundation
Tony Shook
David and Dorothy Smith
Anne Wall Thomas
Lisa Volk
Robert and Lauren Wishnew
Gail Wood in memory of Wallace Wood
Susan Worley
Judith and James Barton
Victoria Beck
Georgia Bizios
Cristina Bonardi
Christopher and Cathleen Bond
Daniel Bowes
Dorothy Cilenti
Hilary and Timothy Crittenden
Meredith Daymont
Lauren Diamond
Christine Ellestad
Bridget Farrell
T.L. Howard
Natalia Isenberg
Kim and Patrick Jeffs
Loree Lam
Nicole Lee
James and Karen Perotti
Elizabeth Phipps
Joann and Tom Quigley
Kimberly Sebastain
Susan Stamey
Anne Wall Thomas
Andrea Vizoso and Andrew Short
Joanne and Joseph Vance
Brown Creek Parent Day
Olivia and David Dobbs
Rich Rosen and Rebecca Slifkin
Katie Wakeford and Gregg Cusick
Faith Community
Chapel of the Cross
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
United Church of Chapel Hill
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Chapel Hill Graduate Chapter
Hot Tin Roof/Hillsborough Bar Group
IBM Employee Charitable Contributions
The American Board of Pediatrics
The American Board of Pediatrics Foundation
Thomson Reuters Matching Gifts Program
William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust

Table banners (see picture below)
Bailey Allred and Rhonda Angerio, Smith Sinnett Architecture
Blank holiday cards
Jean Gross and Donald Miller
Books for Parent Day
Lori Special, State Library of North Carolina

Pat Daggett
Susan Dooling
Jeanette Dunham
First Presbyterian Church
Grace United Methodist Church
Carolyn and Lynn Ikenberry
Rowayton Knitters
Stella Waugh and Knox Tate
Gail Wood
The Franciscan School at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi

Hats and Scarves
Rosmarie Faust
Knit One, Pray Too (and Crochet)
Stokes Reagan
Annamarie Streilein
* We’ve worked hard to create accurate lists and apologize in advance for any errors. Please contact us at (919) 904-4286 with corrections.
Our new table banner thanks to the folks at Smith Sinnett!
Smile While You Shop!
Looking for a fun way to support Our Children’s Place? Shop at AmazonSmile. When you do, Amazon will donate .5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to us.
Go to AmazonSmile.

P.S. There are two organizations with similar names. Please pick us, not the one in CA!
What Can I Do?
  • Tell a friend (or two!) about AmazonSmile!
  • Make a donation to Our Children’s Place in honor of a special person’s birthday or another occasion (Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation are fast approaching). We’ll send them a note letting them know.
  • Use GoodSearch and GoodShop.
  • Tell us about other fundraising opportunities.
Who We Are
Board of Directors
Rhonda Angerio, AIA, Past Chair
Chris Blue, Chair/President
Daniel Bowes, JD, Co-Vice Chair
Sabrina Bristo
Mark Brown, CPA, Treasurer
Schree Chavdarov
Shirley Drechsel
Valerie Foushee
Michelle H. Guarino, MSW, LCSW
Valerie Johnson, PhD
Ellie Kinnaird
Claire Lyons, CFA, Co-Vice Chair
Katherine (Kathy) Roberson, MEd
Richard (Rich) Rosen, JD
Anthony (Tony) Shook, Secretary
Katie Wakeford

Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director

Jenn Barr, Administrative Coordinator      
Advisory Board
Mary Andrews
Alice Bordsen
Karen Chapple
Dorothy Cilenti
Dwain Coleman
Sid Eagles
Jaki Shelton Green
Kim Hoke
Joseph Jordan
Florence Peacock
Linda Perry
Meg Scott Phipps, JD, LLM
George Reed
James (Jim) K. Roberson
Kathleen Shapley-Quinn
Cassie Smith

Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Honorary Board Member

I/we would like to support the work of Our Children’s Place.

Make your check payable and mail to:
Our Children's Place
P.O. Box 1086
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
(919) 904-4286
For online donations via PayPal, click here.

Thank you!
Copyright © 2015 Our Children's Place, All rights reserved.

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