In some ways, family is complicated. Through fights and forgiveness, through trauma and healing, through separation and reunification, Nina and her son, Sadiq, have remained deeply connected to each other. Their love has been consistent. Permanent.
In that way, family can be quite simple.
YSRP’s Director of Advocacy Emily Robb describes Nina as “the most involved parent I’ve worked with. She’s supportive in a positive, advocacy-oriented way. She shows up – always.” In fact, YSRP’s partnership with Sadiq and Nina was sparked by Nina’s call to YSRP, asking for assistance for her son.
Sadiq had just turned 15 when he was first incarcerated in an adult jail. He spent over a month there before being released on house arrest, then waited another seven months before his eventual decertification, or the process through which an adult case is sent back to the juvenile system.
With YSRP’s partnership, the attorneys at the Delaware County Public Defender Office worked tirelessly to advocate for Sadiq’s decertification. With Nina’s support, Sadiq worked hard to get back on track at school. He earned the support of both his school’s principal and the district’s superintendent.
With appropriate structures and support, Sadiq was thriving.
But, Nina knew something else was needed.
Nina holds a photo of her son Sadiq. Photo by Naomieh Jovin.
Sadiq as a child. Photo provided courtesy of Nina.
Sadiq and Nina. Photo provided courtesy of Nina.
Sadiq had been through so much in his young life. He needed therapy, which was challenging to get. Sadiq found himself an afterschool part-time job. He continued to do well, but, to Nina, it felt fragile.
Then, COVID hit.
The structures disappeared. So did Sadiq’s fragile success. One mistake – as it often does for young people – spiraled into many. Eventually, another adult charge came. For Nina, it was devastating. She felt she had failed. But, she did what she had always done: she showed up to support her son as he began a period of incarceration.
Sadiq and Nina’s YSRP family showed up, too. Sadiq was introduced to Ike, YSRP’s newest Reentry Coordinator. “He talks to me about my problems, helps me find ways around those problems, and helps me be a better person,” Sadiq says. They know some of the same people. They’ve suffered some of the same deep losses. While it is not therapy, their relationship and bond create healing.
Nina is emphatic in her praise of Ike and the impact he’s had on Sadiq. She says, as soon as her son met Ike, “it was like a light bulb went off within Sadiq. You know, Ike just immediately became family to us. He never misses a visit.”
The feeling is mutual. Ike explains: “Early on in my relationship with Sadiq, it started clicking. He started saying, ‘I’m better than this.’” Ike has great respect for Nina, too. “She’s an absolutely great mother. She never gave up on him. She knows who she raised, and that he’s better than his mistakes.” Knowing Sadiq has a clear-headed plan for his future, and Nina’s support, Ike speaks confidently about him: “He’s a great young man with a very bright future.”
Now just 18, Sadiq is focused on his future. It won’t start for a couple years, but the planning has already begun. “I’m looking forward to completing as much school and gaining as much knowledge as I can,” he says. “When I reenter the community, I can use everything I gain to better myself and to be in a better position. I’ll be using the programs here, applying myself.”
When he comes home, Ike will be waiting. They’ve been mapping out plans. Before Sadiq’s release, Ike will connect him to the resources he needs. Together, they will write Sadiq’s next chapter. It will include healing, perhaps through the Intergenerational Healing Circles. It will include a job – Sadiq has already reached out to the Roofer’s Union, and he has interest in being an auto mechanic.
And, when Sadiq comes home, Nina will be waiting, too. She’ll be there ready to love him, like she always has.