When a prison or jail sentence breaks up a family, it’s hard on everyone, but it can be especially traumatic for younger children. They suddenly have to face the loss of a parent and, although the parent is still living, the family remains separated. For that reason, several organizations exist to help these children cope with the situation.
Angel Tree Program
This program is specifically geared towards making a holiday connection between children and their incarcerated parents. Angel Tree is a national organization that works with church volunteers in certain communities to purchase gifts and deliver them to children in the name of their incarcerated parents.
The Sesame Workshop
Sponsored by the children’s television show Sesame Street, this organization provides to the children and families of incarcerated individuals. The kits contain educational multimedia material, available in both English and Spanish. The materials are intended to help children and their caregivers deal with the incarceration of a parent.
SKIP is an acronym for Saving Kids of Incarcerated Parents and has locations nationwide. The concept is to provide a circle of positive influences in the lives of children who have been affected by an incarcerated parent. All children in the program receive behavioral and educational encouragement. Teens can also participate in online support groups, where they can discuss the issues that affect them.
Assisting Families of Inmates
Founded in Virginia, this organization also seeks to help the children and families of incarcerated persons. How this program differs is that they assist children with prison visits, so they can keep in contact with their incarcerated parent. The organization also provides families with referrals and resources to help them adjust to the practical changes that the incarceration has created.
Children of Inmates
Similarly, Children of Inmates also strives to keep children connected to their incarcerated parents, though this organization is based in Florida. The program seeks to build stronger familial bonds for inmates and their children, helping them build positive memories throughout the term of their incarceration. Children of Inmates sponsors a number of programs designed to minimize the traumatic effect that the incarceration of a parent has on the children.
Located in Long Island City, this organization focuses on helping female inmates and formerly incarcerated women through practical services. The organization helps women adjust to life back in society and works towards keeping them together with their children. They help arrange housing, offer mentoring programs, and help the women find decent paying jobs within the community.
Based in Atlanta, this program reinforces the idea that family can be a source of strength and positive growth. Children are emotionally nurtured and assisted with their social and educational development. An after-school support group meets to allow older children an opportunity to discuss the issues they face in having a parent in prison. They find that it’s helpful to communicate with others who share the same problems and feelings.