When children face the incarceration of a loved one, hearts break. When children face the incarceration of a loved one the familial bond bears an incredible strain.
The one who should be there to kiss skinned knees or offer comfort after a tough school day leaves a gaping hole. In Utah volunteers are doing something about this hole. For the past twelve years a bedtime story reading program has run. Inmates, who aren’t facing child related offenses, gather to record bedtime stories for their loved ones, allowing voices long absent at bedtime to once again join the nighttime routine.
Testimony from both the inmates, and the children give voice to the hope the program brings. Mothers and grandmothers cherish the opportunity to share the stories. The story reading ritual points tangibly to life beyond incarceration and the goal of reintegration into their children’s lives.
Perhaps you have a loved one currently incarcerated with children who would benefit from a program like this. This program began as a young woman’s service project. It was given a grant for the work, and continues on more than a decade after the unique solution to this relational need was recognized. What could you do to work toward the beginning of a bedtime story program at your loved one’s facility? Let’s look at several integral parts to starting a similar program.
1. Invest Time
2. Research Regulations
3. Recruit Help
4. Budget Costs
First Realize you’re going to need invest a significant chunk of time to get a program off the ground. Look at your regular week and determine whether you have the time needed. Many great ideas never come to fruition because of lack of time. If you do not currently have the time, consider whether you might be able to cut some things from your current schedule to make time for planning and implementing the program. If this will not work, think of trying to inspire someone you know does have the time to invest.
Now that you’ve determined that you do have the time needed, it’s essential that you research the regulations at the facility where you wish to start a program. You may want to start by searching their webpage. Consider aspects such as who is able to volunteer at the facility. Are you as a family member of one of the inmates ineligible for working directly with the inmates? Would you be able to work on some other aspect of the program? Both viewing the website and calling the corrections facility will help you better plan your program.
With a program like bedtime story recording many hands make light work. In fact, trying to do the whole project yourself may be nigh on impossible. So, you will want to invest time in recruiting others with a heart for the incarcerated and their families. Social media outlets, local new stations, public library bulletin boards and even your newspaper may provide valid outlets for recruiting caring volunteers.
Finally, you’ll want to examine the costs associated with a bedtime story program. For the program in Utah, the young woman who started the program was able to obtain a grant. A budget would need to include things such as: the cost of recording equipment, CDs, DVDs, or memory disks for the story’s to be sent on, shipping and handling costs, and the cost of children’s books that will be recorded. It would be worth your while to recruit sponsors for your program.
Of course, these few areas are only the bare bones of beginning a program for inmates and their children. But, thinking through these will help to give you the foundation you need for a vibrant program that will keep on giving.
Renee Patterson’s heart for the loved ones of inmates shows through in her creative writing. Check out her ebooks on Amazon including We are Her Family, The Rich Prisoner, Countdown to Release Date, Granny’s Child and more exciting titles. Hear from the hearts of the loved ones of inmates.