Forty Carrots is an innovative organization created in 1993 with the intent of blending a focus on early childhood, parenting education and mental health services. At its core Forty Carrots is centered around the foundation of healthy relationships. COSP has been a model used by Forty Carrots staff for many years; their foray into the Sarasota (Florida, United States) County Jail system started during the Covid-19 pandemic and is already strengthening local partnerships.
Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman has been impressed with the work of the Forty Carrots team, noting, “I truly think the program we’re doing in the jail [with COSP] is going to have a bigger impact on the quality of life in Sarasota County than even the traditional law enforcement patrol.”
Wendy Norman and Tesha Clark, Parenting Educators, share the following reflections regarding offering COSP to the re-entry population at the County jail:
- COSP seems to awaken these parents’ nurturing tendencies. In the prison system, there are few other programs that focus on parenting or on connection. Wendy and Tesha were surprised by how quickly participants were willing to share about their experiences, even in an online format.
- Wendy and Tesha work to remain judgment-free. A welcoming reflective stance is critical because individuals in prison often aren’t feeling good about themselves.
- Despite their initial concerns, offering COSP virtually worked well with this population. In fact, at the end of the first session the group spontaneously broke into applause in response to the first chapter of the COSP program.
- In some cases, parents receiving COSP are sharing what they learn with their family partners, extending the reach of the work inside prison walls.
- Wendy, Tesha and/or the COSP program is activating parents’ curiosity: Parents routinely request to receive more information at the end of group.
- Parents are doing the hard work of reflecting on their own painful childhood experiences as they go through the COSP intervention. Wendy and Tesha have been inspired by the open dialogue about past experiences.
- In COSP parlance, helping parents manage “the Blame Street” is critical in working with this population. Parents often share the guilt they experience in not being able to be present with their kids. Being With this pain is important as is finding the right moment to invite a caregiver off the “Blame Street.”
- Having two Facilitators offer the groups works well for Wendy and Tesha: being the Hands for one another has been important and debriefing about each session deepens the experience.