As Mothers Day approaches on May 14, we may need to be reminded that not every mother and her children will spend the day together to mark it as a celebration of their special bond. There are over 6,000 women incarcerated in the State of California and over half of these women are mothers of minor children. Many of these women grew up in homes also fraught with dysfunction such as addictions and abuse. When these damaged women go to prison, their children are shifted to family members who may not want them or are put into an overloaded and ineffective foster care system.
According to Amy Santee of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the children of incarcerated mothers are at a greater risk of sexual abuse and of eventually entering the penal system, themselves. It is a problem which perpetuates itself and will not be stopped without intervention. By intervening, we not only assist the imprisoned mothers, but also their children who are certainly without blame.
If you are like most people, though, you have never seen the inside of a prison. You are probably aware that the seemingly impenetrable walls are more than just brick and mortar but also involve severe restrictions and regulations. Obstacles like these make it easy to be dismissive of opportunities to help. There are organizations, however, which are already established that work within the penal system.
Prison Fellowship, one of Serving California’s partner organizations, is one such organization. According to them, “Women generally do not receive as much family support as men in prison. There is a greater family shame dynamic that occurs when a woman goes to prison, and the family’s anger is often shown by refusal to visit or write letters… Separation from their children weighs heavily on incarcerated mothers, but it can also offer a special opportunity to reach out.”
Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program makes sure every child receives a gift and personal message from their mother at Christmas. If enough people will help, perhaps birthdays may also be added. As painful as it is for a mother to be separated from her children, how much more so for the child who may not understand why mother mom is not there, even for special days.
We believe we can do more to support and help transform the lives of women in prison and their children. As we continue to identify outstanding organizations around the State that are serving this population, we would love for you to partner with us to provide the resources necessary to grow and expand programming.
Visit us at www.servingcalifornia.org to find out more about how you can help.