Aarica Humke, a University of Wisconsin-Stout human development and family studies student, encourages inmates at the Dunn County Jail to care about themselves and learn ways to improve their parent-child relationships.
Humke is working this summer for Literacy Chippewa Valley and will earn her degree upon completion of the internship. As part of the internship, Humke, of Greenwood, is teaching a class at the jail entitled Parenting from the Inside.
She developed the class during an independent study course last semester. The class is six lessons over two weeks on topics varying from regulating emotions, self-care, communicating with children, creating appropriate consequences for children and being a supportive, yet responsible parent. Humke has taught the class three times over the summer to inmates, male and female. It took her about five months to research and develop the course.
“When we help the parents learn, we’re helping children learn,” Humke said. “With Parenting from the Inside, my goal is to help incarcerated parents realize that they are still a big influence in their child’s life, even if they are no longer physically present due to incarceration. With that said, all parents would benefit from a parent education course.
“If people grow up in unhealthy environments, they may not learn healthy parenting techniques or have parental role models,” Humke added.
At a recent class in the jail, Humke talked about the importance of parents modeling behavior. “Our children are always watching us and observing our behavior,” Humke said. “We want to model the behavior we want to see from our kids.”
One of the student inmates, Christopher Davidson of Boyceville, who has six children and stepchildren, said he is working on improving his parenting skills for both himself and his significant other. “I enjoy the class,” he said, noting he hopes to take the webinar version as well to pick up more details. “Aarica is very insightful. She is on point.”
Fellow class attendee Derek Nelson, of Menomonie, said he was impressed that Humke wanted to help teach inmates.
Nelson showed a picture of himself with his two-year-old daughter at her birthday party, saying it’s his inspiration for trying to be a better parent. “I want to get as much education as I can from the class,” he said. “We do our lessons and keep them. I am going to look back on them for ideas.”
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Heather Pyka, Dunn County Jail program director, said family is one of the major criminogenic risk factors, problems or issues people face that directly relates to the likelihood to reoffend or commit additional crimes.
“Any programs dealing with family relationships is going to be beneficial,” Pyka said, noting inmates have been very positive about the class. “Helping foster good parenting skills and communication will improve inmates’ chances for success when they leave.”
As part of her internship, Humke is making her program into a webinar, which includes voicing over the PowerPoint presentations used in the parenting class. The program will be offered by Literacy Chippewa Valley in the Dunn County Jail. “Right now, having a parent education program in the jail requires someone to teach it in person,” she noted. “This way the program is available for inmates at any time. It also could be shared with other county jails.”
Before the internship, Humke had never been in a jail and had limited experience working with the incarcerated population. It also was her first time teaching adults. She finds the inmates respectful and grateful for the class.
“What I have learned from my experience in the jail is that any educational programs offered in jail are really needed,” Humke said. “It gives them an opportunity to grow and learn something new. I hope that Parenting from the Inside and other education programs help the inmates get in a place they want to be and help teach their kids a better way of life.”
Humke has chosen not to seek information about the crimes those in her class have been accused or convicted of. “I want to know them for the person they present to me, not for whatever they did,” she noted. “My ultimate goal was to make a parent program useful to each person and that each participant takes something away from it. It shows that they are taking it seriously every time someone shows up, asks questions, participates in the activities and shares their experiences.
Humke has been accepted into the Peace Corps. After completing the internship, she will go to North Macedonia in eastern Europe to teach English, leaving Friday, Sept. 20.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.