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Emphasizing empathy: strengthening the bond between incarcerated mothers and their children


Aug. 25, 2022


Ashley Givens first got into social work because she wanted to help underserved youth. During her years of study and research, her focus turned to working with mental health and the adult criminal legal system.

Now an assistant professor of social work at Mizzou, Givens’ interests have come full circle: She recently received a Richard Wallace Faculty Incentive Grant to study using structured journaling to strengthen the bond between incarcerated mothers and their children.

“It’s a way for these women to reconnect with their kids and maintain the mother-child bond in a directed, meaningful way,” Givens says.

Givens’ early work included training probation officers in recognizing and better interacting with people dealing with mental illnesses. Overall, she says, the criminal legal system still has much work to do when it comes to the mental well-being of the people it affects.

“As a social worker in that system, we have the opportunity to change the mentality,” Givens says. “Just because someone is convicted of a crime doesn’t mean they are any less human or deserving of humane treatment.”


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Ashley Givens

Ashley Givens

Assistant Professor