These kids’ parents were incarcerated. How one community organization is helping them heal.
Children of Promise, NYC
True

Sharon Content loved working on Wall Street. A genius when it came to numbers, she thought she'd spend her entire career working in finance. But at some point, she says, she realized that the career she'd worked so hard for wasn't her calling. Content wanted to make a meaningful impact in her community — to give back; to help make life better for the people around her.

Content's decision led her to the non-profit sector. She became the director of programs at a youth entrepreneurship program. Then she took on the role of Chief Operating Officer at Pathways For Youth at the Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx borough of New York City. It was there, while working with youth in an incarceration avoidance program that she realized that something was missing.

"Whenever I met a family that was impacted by incarceration, I didn't have a referral," Content says. There was no organization to which she could send her clients — no group which worked specifically with the unique needs of youth whose parents had been imprisoned. So 11 years ago, in the basement of her home, Content started laying the plans for Children of Promise, NYC.


"Children are the invisible victims of mass incarceration," Content says. "They are a forgotten population. I wanted to establish an organization that was specifically designed to meet the needs, interests, and concerns of children of incarcerated parents."

Today, CPNYC serves 300 families a year. The organization has a flagship location in Brooklyn and will soon open a center in the South Bronx which will double the number of families that Children of Promise can serve. CPNYC is currently the only program of its kind in the city — and it offers children of incarcerated parents an unprecedented level of support.

Aside from an after-school program that's open until 6:30pm every day, youth enrolled in the program can also take part in a full-day summer program which offers a wide variety of programs — from sports to academic enrichment to art and music classes. The programs are absolutely free to those enrolled and every activity is created with best practices in youth development and the participants' unique needs in mind. But CPNYC doesn't just offer the youth a safe place to go after school and during the summer — the program's unique in that it offers extensive mental health services as well. The organization is licensed as an outpatient mental health clinic with therapists and psychiatrists on staff.

"In addition to the stigma of having an imprisoned parent, there's a stigma around mental health services. We provide services that de-stigmatize both of those challenges for young people," Content says.

Children of Promise, NYC

"We infuse mental health in all aspects of our program. So it's therapeutic art, it's music therapy, it's drama, it's theater, it's activities that allow our young people to feel and express what they're feeling. Especially around the stigma, the shame and, for so many of our young people, the secret of having a parent in prison."

Because mass incarceration disproportionately affects people of color, Content says it's important that these services be offered in a way that destigmatizes mental health in culturally competent ways that reduce shame and stigma while strengthening bonds in the community.

The services CPNYC provides are important every day, but especially now, when so many children's lives have been affected by the current pandemic. And as CPNYC has escalated their services to offer even more support during this difficult time, Upworthy is partnering with TBS and The Last O.G. to help the organization give even more back to the community. And you can help. All you have to do is tweet.

For every retweet of the message above, TBS will donate one dollar to CPNYC between now and May 5th, 2020. That's money that will help CPNYC pay its staff, provide virtual therapy and mentoring to the youth it serves, and help families with necessities such as sanitizer, face masks, and food.

"The Last O.G. really speaks to the mission of the organization. This is a show that talks about someone who was incarcerated and then comes home. So this particular partnership is a dual benefit in that it really is one that speaks to our mission," Content says.

"Partnering with an impact-driven Brooklyn-based organization has been an important component to each season of The Last O.G., a series that's centered around second chances," said Brett Weitz, General Manager, TNT, TBS and truTV. "There is a natural connection to Children of Promise, NYC and we are proud to partner with an organization that provides such an invaluable service."

"If there's anything the pandemic has highlighted," Content adds, "it's the need for community-based organizations like CPNYC. And how important it is that we all stand up to support such programs in our own communities."

Pexels.com
True

June 26, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. Think of the Charter as the U.N.'s wedding vows, in which the institution solemnly promises to love and protect not one person, but the world. It's a union most of us can get behind, especially in light of recent history. We're less than seven months into 2020, and already it's established itself as a year of reckoning. The events of this year—ecological disaster, economic collapse, political division, racial injustice, and a pandemic—the complex ways those events feed into and amplify each other—have distressed and disoriented most of us, altering our very experience of time. Every passing month creaks under the weight of a decade's worth of history. Every quarantined day seems to bleed into the next.

But the U.N. was founded on the principles of peace, dignity, and equality (the exact opposite of the chaos, degradation, and inequality that seem to have become this year's ringing theme). Perhaps that's why, in its 75th year, the institution feels all the more precious and indispensable. When the U.N. proposed a "global conversation" in January 2020 (feels like thousands of years ago), many leapt to participate—200,000 within three months. The responses to surveys and polls, in addition to research mapping and media analysis, helped the U.N. pierce through the clamor—the roar of bushfire, the thunder of armed conflict, the ceaseless babble of talking heads—to actually hear what matters: our collective human voice.

Keep Reading Show less

Here we are, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are tired. We're tired of social distancing, wearing masks, the economic uncertainty, the constant debates and denials, all of it.

But no one is more tired than the healthcare workers on the frontline. Those whom we celebrated and hailed as heroes months ago have largely been forgotten as news cycles shift and increased illness and death become "normal." But they're still there. They're still risking themselves to save others. And they've been at it for a long time.

Mary Katherine Backstrom shared her experience as the wife of an ER doctor in Florida, explaining the impact this pandemic is having on the people treating its victims and reminding us that healthcare workers are still showing up, despite all of the obstacles that make their jobs harder.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Kids say the darnedest things and, if you're a parent, you know that can make for some embarrassing situations. Every parent has had a moment when their child has said something unintentionally inappropriate to a stranger and they prayed they wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Cassie, the mother of 4-year-old Camryn, had one of the those moments when her child yelled, "Black lives matter" to a Black woman at a Colorado Home Depot.

But the awkward interaction quickly turned sweet when the Black woman, Sherri Gonzales, appreciated the comment and thanked the young girl.

Keep Reading Show less