The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) published an op-ed by Renée Menart on April 1, 2022. Excerpted below, the piece can be found here.
Children’s books centered on characters involved in the justice system can support kids with incarcerated parents and offer a compassionate window into this experience for broad young audiences…
For one family in San Francisco, “Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt” has already provided much needed comfort. On a recent brisk day, as sunlight peeked through the clouds, a teenage boy and his grandmother walked up to a three-story blue house known to locals as Cameo House.
The boy’s mom lives here. Before this, she had been separated from their family and confined to a jail cell while they awaited a judge’s sentencing decision. Fortunately, instead of a years-long prison sentence, the boy’s mom was offered a room at Cameo House for up to two years. There, she could reconnect with her children, participate in therapy sessions and support groups, pursue career goals, and create a foundation for her future.
Cameo House Program Director Rebecca Jackson noticed the boy’s slumped shoulders and dejected expression as he stood on the stoop. She recognized this look as that of a child with shrapnel wounds from the explosion that is a parent’s incarceration. Rebecca, herself a formerly incarcerated mother of two, turned to residential support staffer Aurora Jimenez with an idea.
“He’s Demetri! Oh my goodness, let’s give him a book!” she exclaimed. Aurora quickly brought Rebecca one of the paperback books stacked on a desk near the Cameo House entrance. Rebecca approached the boy lovingly with “Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt” in her hands. She explained the story and suggested that he read it to his younger brother. The teenager’s demeanor changed as he received this gift. His eyes welled and he cracked a smile.
As the boy departed with his grandma by his side, Rebecca reflected. “That is what this story is all about. We have never had a tool like this before – a simple way to make children feel seen.”jjie.org