How Might We Support the Caregivers of Children With Incarcerated Parents by Anushka Jajodia
WRITTEN BY: ANUSHKA JAJODIA
Born and brought up in Bombay, India, I find myself fortunate to live in Baltimore. As I build connections with many beautiful souls, the spirit of Baltimoreans reminds me of Bombayites. I am eternally grateful for all the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that I continue to receive.
Emotions and intuition drive my soul, creation, and engagement as a social justice designer. I am moving through time as a design researcher, visual designer, illustrator, poet, and photographer.
The opportunity to pursue Social Design at The Center for Social Design, MICA has helped me understand, navigate and cultivate a participatory and community-driven process to address social issues. While the approach of care and love has shaped my storytelling practice, I deeply desire to learn and contribute to an anti-oppressive culture of research, which questions the power constructs that acknowledges history and the need for healing.
Throughout my graduate thesis journey which has continued through now, I have been committed to educating myself about the support that exists for Caregivers Impacted by Incarceration in Baltimore City.
I have spent my foundational years in a family, around my mother's eight older siblings, and my extended family. They have been an epitome for caregiving and that sentiment has helped connect me with the Baltimore community.
I care about people, I care about people who care; I care about caregivers.
As souls, we all provide care - for different reasons, at different moments, to different people. With that very intention, I ask “Don’t caregivers matter?” Thus, I share a glimpse about many caregivers who may be forgotten and remain invisible through all the responsibility they hold; to support and nurture the children while they experience separation and loss.
Since December, I have been speaking with community organizations, advocacy leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals and other community experts to understand what support exists for families, especially caregivers impacted by incarceration. Amidst legislative bill sessions and busy schedules of all the people invested in criminal justice reform, I was able to make connections with many humble and powerful individuals. One connection led me to another.
Through all the warmth and wisdom, I learned about some services for caregivers in greater Baltimore County, the city of Frederick, and even in Alabama.
In the midst of numerous conversations, we realized that while there are a few services and programs for incarcerated parents and children in Baltimore City, there are barely any proactive services for caregivers.
Many community members said 'They had not given much thought about the caregivers before'
Many questions, insights and stories arose with the on-going engagement, secondary research and resources. Thus, it was important to embrace the collective efforts of the community and acknowledge the themes that emerged from all conversations.
As part of the research, I had the first collaborative session with various community members I interviewed in April. The goal was to discuss and brainstorm on the topic of caregiving together. A pool of powerful ideas were collectively shared.
After my first collective brainstorm session, I hope to have similar ideation sessions across Baltimore City to initiate the topic of care. The sessions will address how we can create a space of care that is inclusive and respects all families in the society. (If you're curious to learn more about the ideas that emerged, please feel free to connect with me - firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am grateful to be moving with the love and support I receive from the community. A two-way relationship that is built with honesty and humility. I will always remember the moment when a member of the community said to me, "Remember Anushka, it is the small changes that you are making with every individual you meet"
Caring grandparents have always stood by, especially with the rise in the number of women being incarcerated since 1980. The caregivers often fall in the middle of everything and feel exhaustion. On one side, they have to manage their own feelings toward their loved one in prison. On the other side, they have to navigate through the child's feelings. Some previously incarcerated individuals I connected with, shared how the criminal justice system has to be more willing and caring to support family bonds. Without any proper communication, transportation and restrictive prison policies - it is difficult for the caregiver to maintain that bond. What is even more difficult, they say, is caregiving in an environment where they have no support at all. No financial support, safety or respect. While the caregivers require immediate resources for financial, medical, legal and school assistance, it is as important to ensure that families feel safe and respected in the city.
It is precisely through the act of remembering, acknowledging and supporting these immensely important people, that we honor their capabilities, support their life and return their love.
I thank you for your time to read this and I encourage you to connect with me if you wish to learn more about the research; the process, the role of the community, my role (The publication + detailed research has not been shared here due to the sensitivity of the topic)
I look forward to hearing from any individuals, community members or organizations who may be interested in sharing more, speaking or collaborating with me.
email@example.com / 443.447.7333