Children who have incarcerated parents often have no idea why their parent is no longer at home. There is pain, confusion and lonlieness. Within the Miami area, there are more than 15,000 children who have one or both parents in prison.
The Miami and faith-based organization Children of Inmates works with local services to help strengthen the bond between these children and imprisoned parents. The belief is that by keeping this bond strong, the trauma will be minimized.
The Service Team for Children of Inmates intends to assure that children with an incarcerated parent will have opportunities to be cared for and supported in their development by responsible adults, helping professionals, and others in their communities.
Children of Inmates is a collaborative effort between nine Miami-Dade County organizations that are committed to ensuring that every child who is involved receives the highest quality care and services that can be provided by these organizations.
The main mission and services provided at Children of Inmates are:
A multi-skilled, multidisciplinary team proposes:
• To identify the children of inmates in need of support and link them with appropriate helping organizations and services.
• To strengthen bonds between children and their caregivers, including the incarcerated parent(s) when appropriate, by providing support groups and hosting letter writing nights.
• To mitigate childhood trauma caused by the arrest of parents by engaging law enforcement, social services, and the public in understanding the needs of children.
• To increase the likelihood of successful reunification with incarcerated parents by supporting communication with parents while they are incarcerated.
• To raise community awareness and knowledge through advocacy for children of inmates and their needs.
Some of the services for children include communication services. Volunteers help children compose letters to their incarcerated parents. In addition, Children of Inmates is working with the Florida Department of Corrections to participate in a Story-Time Moms program. This program allows incarcerated moms to read stories to their children via recording on tape.
As can be arranged, Children of Inmates provides bus trips to the prison where their incarcerated parent is imprisoned. This helps keep the physical bond of parent and child strong. Special family visits are arranged on a quarterly basis to create a family/child atmosphere to try and give the child some semblance of family life. The visits typically begin with hugs, tears and sometimes with a cautious handshake. The Network uses play therapy, arts and crafts time, reading and mealtime to support bonding efforts.
Children with incarcerated parents are victims of circumstances that are beyond their control and it is wonderful to see organizations coming together to support these children during these difficult times. Through these organizations, these children have a chance to grow up with love and support until a normal life can be restored.