I am sitting here, working from home, listening to the buzz of my full house. During this pandemic, I find this bustle immeasurably comforting, but it also reminds me that there are mothers in my state who do not have full houses because they have a child in a North Carolina Juvenile Detention Center.

At this moment, there are as many as 418 children in juvenile detention centers who the state is responsible for protecting during this unprecedented public health crisis.  According to voices from the inside of these centers, Governor Cooper and the state are failing these children. 

We need you to demand that North Carolina protect ALL our children!

All the ways each of us are protecting ourselves and our families from this virus are virtually impossible for children in the criminal justice system.

Social distancing is impossible inside a detention center. 

These children are often contained in communal settings, and even if they are all held in individual rooms, the ventilation systems inside detention centers are inadequate for isolation alone to prevent the spread of the virus. Anyone of us that’s made a trip to the store in search of bleach, hand sanitizer, or even toilet paper, knows that these items are hard to find.  Imagine how much harder it is for kids in cages to get enough access to soap for the constant hand washing they should be doing to prevent the spread.  I now have two teenage children in my house ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.  I am painfully aware of how hard it is to get two kids to comply with sanitization requirements, let alone more than 400. 

We also must care about the mental health of these caged children.  My college senior sat at the foot of my bed for an hour last night unloading all her concerns about how this pandemic will change her life, current and future. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to sit here and to listen to my child. I can reach out to console her and snuggle with her, if she needs it.  One step that has been taken help prevent the spread of the virus is North Carolina detention facilities is the prohibition of visitation. 

The 418 children in the care of the juvenile justice system in North Carolina don’t have access to the listening ear and comforting arms of a loved one to help them mentally survive this pandemic.  

Conversely, there are families across North Carolina who can’t poke their heads inside rooms and check on their sleeping children, like many of us are doing even more than we did before this virus. A coalition of organizations across the state are demanding that Governor Cooper and the Department of Public Safety take steps to protect the mental health of children in their care and their families.  We need YOU to call Governor Cooper and demand that these children get mental health care services and educational services to help them survive this pandemic.

Because of the failure of our Governor to respond to the needs of these children, they have one less educator to help them maneuver this pandemic. 

Belinda Cauthen, a teacher with the exceptional children program with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, recently shared that she can no longer go to work and education the caged children of North Carolina. 

As the primary caregiver for her elderly mother, she simply cannot risk working in a facility that is doing virtually nothing to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. She was forced to walk away from children she has dedicated her life to educating and preparing for the future they deserve because she cannot risk exposing her mother to the virus that is inevitably going to spread in the juvenile detention center. 

We need you to act! Download and share the image below across social media. Use your voice and power to tell Governor Cooper to protect all the children of North Carolina from this deadly virus.  Your can tweet him @NC_Governor,  call his office at 919-814-2000, or email him at governor.nc.gov/contact-governor-cooper

Yours in this fight,
Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director