#UMNMCH student Tia Joy Peterson (she/her/hers) wrote this reflection on how her field experience and deployment contributed to her career in Maternal and Child Health (MCH).
When I first entered the University of Minnesota (UMN) Master of Public Health specified in MCH, I knew right away that I wanted to concentrate on how to reduce black birthing outcomes and child protection as these were my two greatest passions. I am currently a certified doula and have worked in social work as a child protection Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) investigator and am now a Hennepin County Attorney victim advocate. I was excited to learn that there was a deployment that was focused on how to increase parent engagement for those who were incarcerated and how to bridge the gap between jails and child protection. It was like this internship was made for me because I had the opportunity to conduct research on a subject area that I have had a lot of personal and professional experience with. I also was able to connect with Center faculty and MCH alumni Rebecca Shlafer, who works and conducts research around justice-involved women and children, including prison doula work.
The Expanding MN Model Practices in County Jail Facilities to Support Children of Incarcerated Parents project aims to improve parent-child relationships, reduce recidivism, increase child well-being, and improve public safety. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) developed a multidisciplinary Learning Community, engaging partners at the state and local levels, to support four county jail facilities with the implementation of policy, systems, and environmental changes that benefit children of incarcerated parents and their families. The central goal is to increase the quantity and quality of parent-child contacts while the parent is in custody and after release. The four partner jail sites, ranging in size and geographic location, include Carlton County Jail, Stearns County Jail, Ramsey County Correctional Facility, and Renville County Jail.
This internship emphasized supporting work that promotes and expands services in local correctional facilities and communities to support incarcerated people and their minor children.
What I Accomplished
Throughout this deployment, I had been researching and assessing the population needs and assets that affect incarcerated parents. Understanding that most incarcerated parents are of color and that systemic barriers have increased mass incarceration, the goal of this internship was to improve parent-child relationships, reduce recidivism, increase child well-being, and improve public safety. I assessed the policies and procedures of several jails around the state and made recommendations for improvement, as well as how to work collaboratively with child protection. I also researched child well-being outcomes when it comes to having a parent that is incarcerated, and made recommendations for child protection and jails to help aid in fostering relationships between children and their parents while they are incarcerated. It is up to child protection and jails to work together, and I have made recommendations for both to engage in community outreach and gain a greater understanding of the populations that they serve. I also was able to provide a cultural aspect to interactions with those who are incarcerated and their children/family members. Families need wraparound services because if you include the community in which they live, they will have built-in connections once they are released.
Tying It All Together
My coursework, various internships, jobs, and field/culminating experiences have all been great assets to me thus far. This deployment has inspired me to continue to build on my passions. I know that wherever I go, there will always be an internship, a committee, a professor, or an advisor to help guide me, support me, and encourage me to reach my full potential, which is to create better outcomes for people of color in public health.
Tia Joy Peterson graduated with an MA in Human Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, after completing a BS in Family Studies from Metropolitan State University. She has worked for several years in non-profits, including domestic violence shelters, and for the last 7 years in Hennepin County in Child Protection (most recently for the Hennepin County Attorney’s office). Her plan after graduating is to continue her education and pursue a law degree concentration in human rights from the UMN, focusing on reproductive health.
Interested in learning more about getting a degree in MCH? Visit our MCH Program page for more information.
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