My mom passed away in September 2019, just a few months before the pandemic began. Her passing was sudden and unexpected. After her passing, the plan was that I would return to the town where I grew up the following summer to scatter her remains. Due to the pandemic, this was not possible.
A year after my mom’s passing, I began graduate school where I studied Community & Social Change. I’d always known I wanted to continue my education as I have a passion for community and a heart for families. It was during my senior year of my undergraduate program where I studied Child, Youth & Community education that I was offered an internship with The Children’s Trust, a Massachusetts child abuse prevention organization. I almost said no to this opportunity as I wasn’t sure the prevention field was the right place for me. I ended up loving it and when I started graduate school hoped to find an opportunity to be re-connected with the prevention field. I also hoped that by going to graduate school it would help distract my mind from losing my mom.
As a child, I experienced abuse by my father, who blamed my mom, which resulted in a lengthy custody battle. Unfortunately, the court believed the lies my father was telling and my mom lost custody of me. I was taken away from the parent that took care of me and was doing everything she could to ensure my safety. Eventually the truth came to light and my father was incarcerated. Experiencing abuse as a child is only part of what drives my passion for prevention. My mom also experienced trauma herself. She didn’t have the time or resources to heal as her focus was on taking care of me. I experienced how that impacted not only her life, but also our lives. I know what it is like to be raised not having Protective Factors.
I was reunited with the prevention field just as I was looking for an organization to complete my Master’s capstone project. The Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, the national membership organization for state children’s trust funds, welcomed me with open arms for my master’s capstone internship.
In 2021, I was able to return to the town whereI grew up and scatter my mom’s remains. It was on this same day that I happened to purchase and begin reading What Happened to you? by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. This was also all happening as I was trying to put my finger on what I wanted to base my Master’s capstone project. After only reading a few chapters, I knew I had to incorporate this book into my capstone project as it covered everything I was really passionate about.
It just so happened that the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance had purchased this book for the member children’s trust fund in the state of Georgia, The Georgia Division of Family & Children Services, for each of the parents on their parent advisory council, one that the Alliance helps support. We knew we needed to do more than just buy the book and give it out so we thoughtfully considered how to best support the parents as they read What Happened to You? We decided to start a book club. We crafted a guide from our book club content. Little did I know this guide would later be used in communities across the country to help parents enter into these important conversations!
We wanted to provide for the parents with a safe space to look at their own experiences and realize these experiences don’t define their future. The experiences make up a part of who they are and by examining them they can find strength and resolve to carry on to a brighter future for themselves and their families. Although I was excited for the book club opportunity, I was also nervous. I knew if I wanted to build strong relationships with the parents of the Georgia Parent Advisory Council it would be important that I also share my own lived experiences, something I had never done before with people outside of my close circle. Also, not being a parent myself, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate to the parents on the Georgia Parent Advisory Council.
The worries I had quickly went away. As Dr. Perry says, “Healing Happens in community.” A lot of healing happened in the 11 weeks of our book club. Not just for the parents on the Georgia Parent Advisory Council, but for myself as well.
Oprah Winfrey joined our final book club on December 15, 2021. She shared with us her thoughts about writing the book and incorporating learnings from her own life. She acknowledged the important role of parents and was pleased that the discussion of What Happened to You? was valuable to the PAC members.
Dr. Perry spoke at the release of the Alliance’s book club guide and was touched by how much the book club experience meant to the parents. I’m so thankful for Oprah and Dr. Perry for all the support and for starting the conversations.
I do not believe that it was a coincidence that I picked up What Happened to you? on the day that I did. I believe that my mom was pointing me in the direction of not only being able to heal, but also to help others do the same. I hope that by reading What Happened to You? and using the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance’s Book Club Guide, individuals, parents, communities and families can begin or continue their healing journeys and learn the importance of Protective Factors.
To access the Alliance’s book club guide visit: https://ctfalliance.org/partne...h-parents/book-club/
For more information about our webinar on becoming a book club leader, see this blog post.