The White House Office of Public Engagement, created in 2011 to recognize community leaders working to strengthen democracy and increase participation in government, hosted the event. This event also marked the introduction of a new Sesame Street Muppet character, Alex, who has an incarcerated parent. Alex is pictured here along with Dee Ann (left) and two other honorees, Nell Bernstein and Yali Lincroft, close colleagues.
The 12 honorees have all dedicated their lives to working with incarcerated parents, their children, and the caregivers of those children. The White House describes them as heroes, working every day to help families affected by incarceration.
The work of Arkansas Voices and the other Champions of Change is complemented by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, convened by the Attorney General two years ago, which seeks to reduce barriers to jobs, housing, and education, with a special emphasis on the needs of veterans and women as they rejoin society after involvement with the criminal justice system.
"This White House event offered the first-ever federal policies to soften the impact of parental loss for a child of an incarcerated parent, including a model law enforcement training and protocol when children are witnesses to their parent's arrest, along with other needed policies," noted Dee Ann. "It is our hope that we will see further federal efforts to insure children and parents are not needlessly separated, including diverting parents into productive programs without parent-child separation.
Arkansas Voices works with many wonderful families, providing support during the parent's incarceration and re-entry. To learn more about Arkansas Voices, visit our website at www.arkansasvoices.org.