Statistically, Indiana rate of parental imprisonment is the second in America. And that time which is lost in prisons can at times be one of the toughest parts of being behind bars.
But one program has emerged in Indiana to serve as a channel to connect the inmates and their families and friends with resources, as they serve their sentences. It’s called Volunteers of America (VOA).
The aim is simply to break the cycles of incarceration by continuing to provide care. When somebody is released from the prison. This often implies a chance to restore their relationships.
Rachel Halleck is Volunteers of America’s senior director of the behavioral health services.
Halleck’s organization heard imprisoned mothers’ concerns severally, as they were working with them to strengthen families that are affected by incarceration.
What Are The Challenges Incarcerated Parents Face?
Some of the concerns that those incarcerated mothers expressed include:
- Where are my children
- I want to check on my children.
- I really need to see them.
Another thing that Halleck’s team learned during their interaction with incarcerated mothers was how fragile they were upon their release.
The recently-released mothers who got assistance from Volunteers of America were less likely to drop out of services like:
- Addiction treatment.
- Job placement.
- Transitional housing.
The VOA program is now moving toward men too. When Langston Hughes first heard about VOA, he was serving a 2-year sentence for probation violation.
Hughes says the experience was particularly even harder on his 8-year-old daughter. It even caused her to start misbehaving both at home and at school.
Consequences Facing Children with Incarcerated Parents
Experts reveal that a parent in prison impacts not just the behavioral wellness of a child, but also their physical health. The Volunteers of America worked with Hughes to boost his daughter’s spirits.
The team asked the daughter about what she is interested in. She said she loves dancing, so they took her to a dance school.
Before being imprisoned, Hughes used to help his sister and mother financially. So the VOA program, through its barrier-busting funds assisted in paying some bills.
Hughes can’t even describe the relieve he felt after being offloaded the burden. He used to think of and worried how his sister and mom were suffering financially, while he was in prison.
Other than stress, at least a third of prisoners report a combination of:
- Past substance abuse.
- Not less than one mental health problem.
The VOA program usually focuses on the causes of inmates’ challenges while helping them, rather than, basing on their current problems themselves (a trauma-informed-care approach).
A child whose parent is incarcerated is 8-times likelier to find him/herself into the criminal justice system.
As Halleck says, even a single intervention is enough to save such families by boosting their resilience and ability to endure tough experiences.
Langston Hughes has now been employed for about a year after the VOA assisted him to get a job.
Hughes says that his daughter has got attitude problems and he aims to help her towards the right direction
And although the daughter stays out of state, he looks forward to giving her the best parenthood when she comes to visit him.