Heart Health and Incarceration of a Parent

hands holding heart

Image Courtesy of NDTV.com

Heart related disease kills thousands of people each year, and generally appears prominently as the number one fatal condition in America, particularly for men.

Many risk factors are known, but a recent study by researchers at Virginia Tech College of Science suggests an additional risk factor that had not previously been considered…parental incarceration.

Research has been showing us the effects of parental incarceration on children, and throughout the nation we are becoming aware of the needs of this group of children who suffer much of the stress and trauma of losing a parent through divorce or death…but who have few social services devoted to their needs.

Now adult children of incarcerated parents are in the news, based on a study which links long-term heart health and mortality rates with being the child of a parent in prison. Researchers found strong linkage, particularly in men, who had a parent in prison while they were in childhood.

“According to researchers, boys appear to be sensitive to adverse childhood experiences, in a study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.” – NDTV.com

“This new study from researchers at Virginia Tech College of Science is bound to garner attention and add to the growing interest in learning how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect children in the long-term,” said Mrs. Falba Turner, Director of Mentor Programs for Seedling Foundation.

You can read the entire article at NDTV.com.

~ Seedling Mentor Program Staff

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Seedling Board Members and Donors Speak Out – Diana Maldonado

Diana MaldonadoDiana is a multi-talented woman who has tackled everything from politics to high finance with grace and capability. She brings these gifts to the Seedling Foundation as a Board Member and Donor. 

Diana, what drew you to become involved with Seedling?

“I’ve been with Seedling as a board member for nearly three years now. I was introduced to it by my children’s elementary school principal, (my children are now adults), who spoke about the mentoring program so glowingly that I couldn’t say no! I was invited to come learn about its mission in mentoring children challenged by parental incarceration and was drawn to helping students/ families in this unfortunate situation by supporting advocacy efforts and fundraising both in the community and to my friends.”
What inspires you to donate to Seedling as your charity of choice?  Continue reading

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Why Does My Mentee Act That Way?

Insights Into Why Children of Incarcerated Parents May Act Out…

Seedling mentors serve as positive adult role models for children whose parents are incarcerated. And, while Seedling mentors are not mental health counselors, it is helpful to know and understand the unique challenges facing this vulnerable group of children.

NCTSN-LogoThe National Child Traumatic Stress Network published a report titled “Children with Traumatic Separation: Information for Professionals.” This article provides some insights into why children of incarcerated parents may act out. According to the article, separation from a parent can be a frightening event for a child, and they may develop post-traumatic responses that can include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Disturbing images of the separation reenacted in play or depicted in art
  • Avoiding reminders of what happened, such as people, places, situations, or things associated with the traumatic event
  • Negative belief about oneself, others, or the event
  • Negative changes in mood (e.g., sadness, anger, fear, guilt, shame)
Child hugging caregiver

Image courtesy of The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

In addition to having post-traumatic symptoms related to separation from the parent, the child may face other challenges, such as viewing the absent parent as “all good,” and may demonstrate devotion to the absent parent by defying the current parent or caregiver. They may believe that caring about or loving one caregiver will imply betrayal of the other. The child may also have overly negative beliefs about the absent parent, mistakenly believing that the parent’s incarceration was their intentional way of abandoning the child. This belief can lead the child to hold on to negative feelings (e.g. sadness, anxiety, anger) and engage in problematic behaviors (e.g. aggressive or oppositional behavior, self-injury, substance abuse, running away) in an attempt to cope with those feelings and regain some sense of control of the experience.

Children who have lost a parent to incarceration may also believe that something they did or did not do caused their parent to leave. Inaccurate self-blame leads many children to feel bad about themselves or to participate in negative behaviors in order to receive the punishment they may feel they deserve. Continue reading

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Seedling Donors & Mentors Speak Out – David Halpern

David HalpernDavid Halpern is a Lawyer, an outspoken advocate for several causes and a proud mentor and Board Member for Seedling Foundation.  He shares his mentoring story with us here.

“I am pleased to be completing my second semester with Mark. He is third grader at a really neat elementary school where all the teachers are addressed as “professors” and the halls are filled with banners from universities from all around Texas and the U.S.

Enthusiasm for learning is in the air and, on occasion, Mark and I can get pretty fired up about it too.”

“Both of us have siblings. I have an older brother who, for years, took care of me with kindness before taking care of me with his fists as we grew older. In contrast, Mark is surrounded three sisters and his mom. I can’t imagine what that’s like, so he helps me by sharing little things about growing up as the man in the house. He doesn’t share much, but I do know he loves his sisters and it sounds like they love him back…Mom, too.”

SF-DavidHalpernBlogPic“Mark is the second boy I have mentored in my journey with Seedling. After 7-plus very interesting years with my first mentee, Dylan, it has been fun to return to an age where most of the faces I encounter display smiles and eyes wide with wonder. One never knows how long a relationship will last, but I am hopeful and I look forward to each week’s visit which usually include reading time in the library or time throwing the football.”

“Seedling is one of several local organizations that we choose to support through time and some of our earnings. I’m proud to contribute and only wish we could do more. There are so many good causes and so many good people in need. For me, it’s about the kids. I think it always will be.”

You can read more about David Halpern in his biography.

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Seedling Donors & Mentors Speak Out – Rachel Brownlow Lund

Rachel Brownlow LundSeedling continues its series of interviews with our Mentors, Donors and Board Members, sharing their insights and stories with you!

Rachel, how long have you been a mentor with Seedling, and how did you hear about us?

“This is my fourth year as a Seedling mentor (with the same mentee!). The organization has been on my radar since 2011, when I read an Austin Business Journal piece featuring the city’s Profiles in Power and Women of Influence award winners. One of the recipients was a mentor with the Seedling Foundation.”

“I can’t remember what her quote was, but whatever she said about the Seedling Foundation piqued my interest. I immediately googled Seedling, bookmarked the website, and promised myself that I’d apply.”

What inspired you to speak out for Seedling? Continue reading

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