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Help is on the way for parents, caregivers, and educators through Heart to Heart Families

Heart to Heart Newsletter, August 2020


For over thirty years Heart to Heart and its parent organization, Comienzos, has brought life-changing education to incarcerated people. A new program, Heart to Heart Families, is emerging as an extension of this work. Through this program Heart to Heart trainers, coaches, and volunteers will help parents and caregivers care for themselves as they care for their children. The primary focus will be supporting families impacted by incarceration and other adverse childhood experiences. (Click to learn more about ACEs from the CDC). The vision for the program emerged out of conversations with Heart to Heart learner, Chris Hartstein. She is the author of the children’s book, An Inside Story, and creator of its accompanying wool doll. From that, it has grown into a six-week parenting class where the book and doll will be referenced.

Hartstein tells us the goal of the program is to extend the teaching of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication to families. (Click to learn about the Center for Nonviolent Communication). “The intention being that the people in prison that Heart to Heart has reached with their nonviolent education would be supported by having their families learning the same concepts” says Hartstein.

Nonviolent Communication is key to what Heart to Heart teaches in and out of prisons. Heart to Heart Families will start that conversation at home. Heart to Heart hopes to reach a diversity of families because raising children who know they matter is important to all of us. Hartstein can envision working with families who currently have a family member who is incarcerated as well as when this member returns home. The goal is to have a continuation of learning during and after incarceration.

The first six-week parenting class will be held over Zoom. "The book and other materials will be shared so that families can have visual references in the home" says Hartstein. Many adults and children learn concepts with graphics so having the materials in person will make the concepts of Nonviolent Communication easier to grasp.

Hartstein is excited to positively impact children’s lives by spreading the skills of Nonviolent Communication. She asks, “If the kids are learning this stuff, how do we support them in continuing to grow their empathy skills?” She answers with, “Well schools! Let’s share this information not just with parents, but with teachers and counselors.” The physical doll will be engaging for a teacher to hold up and talk with young children about their emotions and needs.

Hartstein tells us she’s been wanting to bring Heart to Heart Families to life for the past three years. She invites anyone who would like to reach young children, parents, or educators with the beauty of Nonviolent Communication to contact her to share their excitement, skills, and connections.

If you’d like to learn more or get involved with Heart to Heart Families, please email for more information.

Heart to Heart is currently, prepping, planning, and