Foundation investments in non-traditional family supports for children with incarcerated parents can improve parent/child relationships, foster greater family stability and encourage youth to strive for future success.
Hour Children’s Teen Program at the Children’s Center of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility provides parenting education programs for female inmates, consistent and structured visitation between children and their incarcerated mothers, enrichment programs for the children, and case management and other supports for the mothers, children and guardians.
Children’s Center staff identifies mothers for the program based on their commitment to actively participate in the parenting program, weekly Teen Program meetings and special events and support from the guardians of their children. The young people are transported to the correctional facility once a month from around New York State to participate in structured activities with their mothers and in educational, cultural and/or social activities with their peers. The Teen Program coordinator and social worker serve as liaisons between the incarcerated mothers and their children’s guardians, as well as with their children’s teachers, social workers, doctors, guidance counselors and mentors in the hopes of ensuring that the mother establishes and maintains a consistent involvement in her child’s life. Special attention is given to improving communication and strengthening and/or repairing the ties between the mother and the guardian so the pair can work towards a collaborative, mutually-supportive, co-parenting relationship. According to self-reports by the participants’ guardians, more than 90% of the children involved in the Teen Program attend school regularly, with many actively pursuing post-secondary education either at college or vocational programs, and almost all have avoided involvement with the justice system. Guardians have reported feeling more effectively supported by the mother, creating greater stability in the household, which benefits the child and family as a whole. Inmate mothers report a willingness to comply more closely with prison and program requirements, so as not to jeopardize their family’s involvement in the program and so they might serve as credible role models for their children. Participating mothers have also shown an increased interest in pursuing their own education and self-development, enrolling in the prison’s college program and seeking out positions of leadership within the inmate community. The Children’s Center and its Teen Program serve as models for parenting-from-prison programs and are contacted regularly for visits and information by a wide breadth of service providers, agencies and legislators.
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