“Knowing first-hand the shame, pain and loss that comes with having a parent incarcerated was a major inspiration for the game.”
Online Campus alum Asia Vianna Leak, M.A. saw a need and was determined to fulfill it. “The incarceration of a parent is, in fact, a loss experience.”
So began the development of The Waiting Game: A Grief Intervention for Children with an Incarcerated Parent. The game is designed to help children express a multitude of feelings, including feelings they would have around being separated from their parent, feelings in response to their parent’s incarceration, and the secondary loss experiences about the incarceration.
“The Waiting Game is also designed to help children describe ways in which they are still in communication with the incarcerated parent and the efforts the incarcerated parent has made to maintain contact with them,” explained the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate. “They are also able to complete a continuing bonds activity to mourn the separation.”
The development of the game has been a labor of love, and very personal. “I had experience with parental incarceration for a very brief period of my adolescence and it significantly impacted me for a long time,” Asia said. “Knowing first-hand the shame, pain and loss that comes with having a parent incarcerated was a major inspiration for the game.”
The seeds of the game took root in Asia’s Grief Counseling class where she conducted the necessary research of the different elements of the game to determine the best way to support its development.
“The next step was creating the actual board game, which required a lot of careful and intentional planning.”
Completing development of the game also included Asia presenting at The Chicago School’s 2017 Cultural Impact Conference, where she received Honorable Mention, but more importantly for her purposes, “feedback from my peers and professors at TCSPP. It let me know that I was on the right track.”
Asia copyrighted the game in 2017, and uses it with clients in her role as a mental health coordinator and counselor for Generation Hope, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit focused on college completion and early childhood success for teen parents and their children, respectively.
“Using the game as a grief intervention has helped my clients to have insight about their loss experience that they have not had before. Playing the game also gives them an outlet to talk about what they have lost.”
Perhaps the game’s success was assured, as Asia put the demo through its paces throughout its development. During Internship I of her program, she was charged with creating a deliverable as part of her Passion Project. This led to the development of a four-part Parent Support Pack created to support the remaining parent/caregiver in navigating his/her feelings as well as the child’s surrounding the incarceration of the parent. After that, she took the game on the road again and continued to find inspiration to improve upon it.
“I presented at a workshop at the Association for Creativity in Counseling’s National Conference in Clearwater, Florida. The feedback I got about the game was extremely helpful and the reception from the conference attendees was positive. I completed my Passion Project, adding a detailed outline for an eight-week play therapy group for children aged six to nine with an incarcerated parent, using the board game as the central intervention.”
Asia is both a licensed graduate professional counselor and a nationally certified counselor, and is also a dance/movement therapist intern, providing dance and movement group therapy at a therapeutic school for middle and high school students. Future plans for Asia, who believes her TCSPP degree will “open doors for me to meet my goals of being a guiding light in the lives of children and families having a rough time,” include going back to school for a doctoral degree.
She also has more plans for the game.
“My hope is to explore publishing an article about the game within the next year and possibly even doing some research with the game. Eventually, I would like to sell the game in both a traditional board game format and also as a printable option online for counselors.”