Helping Children of Incarcerated Parents
A 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, Hart-Johnson is president and co-founder of DC Project Connect, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide crisis intervention and information resources to families affected by incarceration and to support reentry initiatives that strengthen families. A published author and researcher, she has lectured nationally and internationally on the psychological and social impacts of mass incarceration. She was recently named vice president of the International Coalition for Children With Incarcerated Parents, a global consortium that supports the well-being of children of prisoners.
For the past year, Hart-Johnson led a special research project that focused on the use of storytelling as an intervention when discussing parental incarceration with children. “My Story and Me” is the result of this research. It’s a digital portal that provides resources, including activity sheets, discussion starters, and answers to frequently asked questions, to help caregivers facilitate healthy conversations with children about incarceration. Hart-Johnson and two fellow researchers wrote four children’s books featuring colorful animal characters who help children make sense of their parents’ imprisonment. Caregivers can access the audiobooks from the portal, or they can purchase paperback copies.
Hart-Johnson and her team used the theoretical framework they developed from their research to create a comprehensive curriculum for social workers and human services workers to help children of incarcerated parents. Since 2015, Hart-Johnson has served as a contributing faculty member in Walden’s School of Human Services in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “I feel so grateful and humbled to have the chance to share my passion with doctoral students, and I’m proud to be connected to a group of colleagues who are just phenomenal,” she says.