Alden Woodcock and EMERGE, Connecticut, Inc. – Circle of Security International

Alden Woodcock and EMERGE, Connecticut, Inc.

New Haven, Connecticut, United States


Since 2013, EMERGE Connecticut, Inc. has been using Circle of Security Parenting (COSP) as a pivotal component to our Transitional Employment Program for men and women transitioning out of prison in the small city of New Haven in the northeastern region of the United States. EMERGE is a nonprofit social enterprise that seeks to end the pattern of recidivism. At EMERGE we take a holistic, supportive, and structured approach to reentry and view the COSP program as a gateway to ongoing mental health services. Ultimately, COSP is part of an approach designed to aid in healing and long-term positive outcomes for fathers and mothers who are returning to their families post-incarceration.

EMERGE realized in our infancy that one of the most challenging aspects of returning home from prison is rebuilding trusting, healthy relationships with partners, family members, and children. Although we experienced some success with other parenting curriculums, we introduced COSP in 2014 in partnership with Fair Haven Community Health Care and United Way of Greater New Haven, and have seen a shift in the culture here as a result. Not only does COSP provide universal tools for parents at all stages in their children’s lives, but it also provides a foundation for understanding the basic principles of attachment theory. These principals allow us to identify the needs we had as children, the needs we have now, and the needs of our partners, relatives, friends, employers, etc.

We have found that these critical conversations allow an acknowledgement, free of judgement, that there are tools and resources to help us become more connected to our children and loved ones. That acknowledgement has opened up conversations about therapy, and beginning to process and reconcile past adverse experiences, so as not to pass trauma on to the next generation. With all the tools – “going out, coming in”, “being the hands”, “naming the need”, “filling up my cup”, “being with”, “shark music”, “rupture and repair”, “mean, weak, and gone”, and more, we’re given the opportunity to stop the trauma, and allow the healing to begin. We refer to COSP as “The Gateway to Mental Health” at EMERGE because crewmembers often want to continue the conversation with a trusted professional once they have started to see a change in their relationships with their kids.

At EMERGE, COSP is only one tool for reclaiming lives. As a certified and fully insured Home Improvement Contractor, EMERGE is able to hire returning citizens as crew members on our construction, landscaping, and property management crews, while at the same time introducing programming and mentorship that promotes personal development and significantly reduces recidivism. Since 2011, EMERGE has maintained a two-year recidivism rate of 15%, which compares to 47% statewide. In addition to paid vocational training, EMERGE crewmembers take part in weekly “Real Talk” group therapy, Life Coaching, Peer Mentoring, Academic Tutoring, as well as curriculums like our Trauma Informed Men’s Groups, Financial Education, and Circle of Security Parenting. We are extremely grateful for COSP; it helps create a foundation for the work we do helping men and women find a path to safe and stable relationships. We believe safe and stable relationships are a foundation for success for the men and women we serve. To find out more about our program, visit: https://www.emergect.net.

Postscript: Circle of Security Parenting (COSP) has been spreading to prison and post-prison settings in the state of Connecticut (USA). It first began to be used in the program described above that works with men and women recently released from prison. In 2019 COSP was brought inside the walls of a women’s prison to mothers scheduled to be released from prison as a way to help equip them to provide a more secure relationship with their kids. Additionally, the Connecticut Dept. of Correction has started a project to bring COSP to parents in many other state prison facilities.

In the following video, Cordell Pemberton, ®COSP Facilitator, discusses his work with COSP in conjunction with EMERGE, Connecticut, Inc.