Making Connections: How Lund Supports Vermont Families | Post paid | Cultural | Seven days


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  • Courtesy of Lund
  • Children play the Kids-A-Part program

There are approximately 100 women currently housed at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Some of them could stay for a few hours; some, a few years. Every situation is different.

The only thing many of these women have in common: about 75 to 80% of them have underage children.

Jess Kell offers them a hand; she coordinates the Kids-A-Part Parenting Program, a project of Lund, based in Burlington. Kids-A-Part provides incarcerated mothers with parenting support and resources, and helps families navigate difficult and potentially damaging separation. Kell, a mother of three, helps other moms fill out paperwork; schedule meetings with parents, teachers and social workers from the Children and Families Department; and be prepared to talk to their children about their reasons for being in prison.

She makes sure that the children of incarcerated mothers do not fall through the cracks.

“I once worked with a woman who was arrested on warrant shortly after dropping her child off at school,” she recalls. No one at school knew she wasn’t going to be there by pickup time. Kell was able to help the mother identify and connect with someone who could care for her child.

Kell has worked with the program since 2007; Kids-A-Part has been with Lund since 2011. Prior to the pandemic, Kell oversaw visits between mothers and their children in the warm Kids-A-Part space in the prison. These half-hour tours now take place on Zoom. The women are sitting in Kell’s office talking to their children through her laptop. Kell facilitated 10 of these tours on a Thursday in September.

“It’s a very common thing for someone to say, ‘Well, if she wanted to see her kids, maybe she shouldn’t have done X, Y, and Z.’ But that line of thinking punishes children, “she said. Studies have shown that having a parent incarcerated puts children at greater risk of negative health effects and what not to have. Contact with the parent can inflict further trauma, she added. “We can do better with these children.”

Lund, the parent organization of Kids-A-Part, strives to do better for Vermont children – and families – in a variety of ways. Kids-A-Part is one of many programs funded and administered by the nonprofit organization.

President and CEO Tricia Coates said, “At Lund, we work to strengthen Vermont families and empower them to break cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse.

From 1890 to 2021

Lund was founded in 1890 as Home for Friendless Women. It was a refuge for expectant mothers, a birthing place that also offered adoption services. In 1927 it was renamed Elizabeth Lund Home, in honor of one of its founders. It then turned into Lund Family Services. In 2012, the association dropped the last two words.

Although its name has been simplified, the organization has grown over the past 131 years. It’s not just about moms anymore.

“When people think of Lund, we want them to think of family,” Coates said. “Family is at the heart of all the work that is done here. People come to Lund because they want to improve life for themselves and for their children. We help build strong families, whether through adoption, treatment or other family services. And strong families mean stronger Vermont communities where children have the opportunity to thrive. ”

In addition to Kids-A-Part, Lund runs the New Horizons education program, which helps teenage mothers complete high school. Lund also provides housing, vocational training and psychological support to mothers recovering from drug addiction. And he runs a licensed child care program that specializes in trauma-focused care.

“Our unique and award-winning programs meet families where they are and help them progress toward their education, family and employment goals,” said Coates. “We strive to ensure that every child grows up in a safe, secure and loving family.”

“We have to see them”

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Jess Kell, Kids-A-Part Program Coordinator - COURTESY OF LUND

  • Courtesy of Lund
  • Jess Kell, Kids-A-Part Program Coordinator

Sometimes ensuring the safety and security of children means terminating parental rights. At Kids-A-Part, Kell works with incarcerated mothers, families and caregivers who navigate the family justice system.

Other times, caring for children means helping mothers behind bars to maintain relationships with their children at home.

In addition to facilitating visits, Kell also receives photos of her family members, which she prints and distributes to her clients. One weekday in September, there was a folder of photos on his desk. “I got one from a little guy in floats, playing in a river,” she said. “I have children who wear their backpacks on the first day of school.”

“I really try to give moms an idea of ​​what their children’s day-to-day is like,” she explained.

Kids-A-Part also operates outside the prison walls. While Kell works with a mother, her colleague Heidi Wiener provides improved case management for caregivers of the children. The program is also a resource for them. Wiener connects with service providers in their home communities statewide, offering training and counseling to best meet the needs of children and individual families affected by parental incarceration.

As Kell pointed out, we are all surrounded by children affected by parental incarceration. “They’re in schools, on baseball and football teams, in dance classes and in theatrical performances,” she said. “We need to see them and we need to better understand their experiences.”

Teaching the next generation

Lund supports families through its early childhood education program. Staff there are qualified to help young children exposed to trauma.

Its 13 full-time teachers and support staff care for around 40 children aged from birth to 5 years old, a crucial time for brain development. Coordinator Judy Harvey notes that the daycare has the highest possible rating – five stars – from the state’s Step Ahead Recognition Program, which rates child care facilities. “We are integrating academic and behavioral teaching and intervention to create the best possible environment for all students to learn,” she explained.

More than half of its students come from low- or modest-income households. Some of their mothers are enrolled in Lund’s drug rehab program. Yet 98 percent of students are reaching or beyond developmental milestones, or have been connected to services that support their development, Harvey said.

The program emphasizes relationships. “We see strong relationships as the very foundation of all other activities,” noted Harvey. This includes the relationships between staff and families. Lund staff work closely with caregivers, as well as students, to ensure children thrive outside the classroom.

Also important are children’s relationships with all living creatures, even insects they find outside. “We never remove bugs or frogs from their homes let alone our responsibility to take care of them and bring them back immediately after observing and learning from them,” Harvey said.

Teachers use the natural world to nurture compassion, empathy, and respect in students. For example, Harvey talks about a project to help increase the population of monarch butterflies. All the children participate, help the caterpillars turn into butterflies and release them back into the wild.

“There is so much going on,” she said, “from learning and observing the life cycle of not only the monarch but also other insects, to sharing a sense of joy. and wonder among all age groups. ”

It is through projects like this that she can see that her work at Lund is making a difference.

“When a child walked in one day, proudly showing us the tiny caterpillar he had found with his mother and sharing his plans to raise it in the classroom, I couldn’t help but think that this caterpillar couldn’t to be in better hands, ”she said. noted. “We neither.”

Alicia’s story

Judy Harvey, Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator, shared this reflection on one of her alumni. It illustrates the impact of Lund’s enveloping and family-centered services:

“When we first met Alicia, she was about 11 months old and was not meeting any of the typical milestones for her age. Her mother was young, struggling with drug addiction and living in poverty. Her mother made the choice to undergoing treatment in Lund, and Alicia needed a place to grow and develop while her mother engaged in the hard work of treatment, so Alicia was enrolled full-time in Lund.

“Within months Alicia not only caught up, but also passed some milestones. By the time she left the program, she was meeting or exceeding developmental expectations in all areas.

“Lund was integral to this success, not only for Alicia, but also for her mother. While Alicia was fully supported in Lund’s classrooms, her mother was able to not only successfully complete her treatment, but with a new sense of hope, she enrolled in a college program designed specifically for single mothers and eventually earned a master’s degree.

“I see them both, because they still come to visit me – imagine that! Alicia is 14 now, and they are both doing really well. Alicia plays on a sports team, is involved in her drama club and aspires to be a marine biologist. ”

This item has been ordered and paid for by Pomerleau Immobilier.

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