Sharon Content: Shedding light on an issue kept in the dark

Black New Yorker

Mahogany Linebarger | 7/29/2013, 10:38 a.m. | Updated on 7/29/2013, 10:38 a.m.

From the outside looking in, COP appears to be very similar to traditional after-school or summer programs. Children from ages 8 to 18 participate in art and music classes taught by counselors. They go on great summer trips and enjoy the company of their friends. But what COP provides that other after-school or summer provides do not is mental health services. Mental health services are infused in the program and serve as a very vital part of the organization's work with the children.

COP is also a licensed mental health clinic. Each child receives one-on-one attention that allows for them to speak to someone about their feelings, issues and family. This also provides the children with someone who is able to advocate for them even outside of the program. Content explains that they often have to go into schools and say, “Listen, it is not just that this child is acting out. Let me tell you want is going on with this family,” and from there, the children that they represent are able to get the attention they need to curb that “bad behavior” or other symptoms that go along with missing a parent that is incarcerated. COP also aids the caregivers and guardians in caring for their children and dealing with the loved one who is incarcerated. They work with other nonprofits and volunteer organizations that give referrals to COP.

“I am just as passionate today as I was five years ago,” said Content. Her dream is to grow, to be able to branch out and have Children of Promise in more cities and states where there is a concentration of people dealing with this issue. Content said, “COP-South Bronx, Georgia or Philadelphia is what I hope for.” She urges society to pay attention to children dealing with such traumatic experiences and to not be afraid to seek outside help. “Our children are the ones being written off, suspended or expelled,” she said, and COP’s mission is to provide them with the quality services that will help them deal with feelings of loss, shame and the stigmas attached to having a parent who is incarcerated.