Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski, MA
Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski is the Policy Advocate at Council for Children’s Rights. A graduate of DePaul University with a B.A. in community psychology, she moved to Charlotte in 2013 where she completed a M.A. in community psychology and certificate in nonprofit management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is expected to complete her Ph.D. in health psychology/community psychology in December 2020. She is drawn to this work because she sees herself and her childhood friends represented in the children served by the Council. A child of an incarcerated parent who attended an underfunded public school, she grew up alongside children who were in foster care, needed special education and mental health services, caught in the middle of custody battles, or were in youth detention facilities. Because of her background and because she was “fortunate enough to have supports and — as a white woman — a lot of unseen privilege” she feels it is her imperative to use her talents and knowledge to shine a light on injustice in systems that impact children. Jaimelee loves hiking, travel, and cooking and lives in Charlotte with husband Alex and their dog Behr. She currently is a big fan of puzzles (who knew?!) and living room yoga.
During this unprecedented time, using data and research to inform policy is a crucial tool in advocating for our children and families. At no time in our agency’s history has our philosophy that children’s rights are human rights been more true or more in jeopardy; and without a State budget, the health and safety of our communities is a an elusive target.
But by attending to the constantly updating news cycle and evolving policy changes, we can understand the widespread impact of this crisis and continue to zealously advocate for our children. We are collaborating with our legal teams, albeit now via phone, email, video conferences, and text messages, to understand trends they’re seeing on the ground, learn about most pressing needs facing our youth, and adapt our data collection efforts to maintain relevance and integrity.
Together, we’re keeping an eye on federal and state education policy that could deprive students with disabilities of access to supports and accommodations in the world of indefinite e-learning. We are working on campaigns to reduce the number of youth incarcerated and increase use of alternatives to detention. We’re asking for any available data that can help us understand changes in child maltreatment reports, academic performance, and youth interactions with law enforcement.
Many of our strategies are different; but many are not.
We remain committed to our research & policy products. In fact, the 2020 State of Our Children report and social media toolkit will be released this month! With folks spending more time at home and with family, we hope it provides an opportunity for thoughtful discussion and action – a tool for grounding us in the strengths and opportunities that existed in our community before stay-at-home orders and will remain once they’ve ended.
Because April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, we usually release a child maltreatment report. This year, we are revamping this report to align with our current reality. While we are definitely #datanerds, this year we’re trading many statistics for resource information to support families with children, particularly those in unstable or unsafe situations.
In addition to many digital resources available from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network released a guide to help families cope during this time, a list of simple activities for children and adolescents, and self-care strategies.
The work may look different, but, now more than ever, we are privileged and grateful to do this work on behalf of our children in Mecklenburg County. During uncertain times, we remain constant.