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Author Topic: Making Sure Kids Aren't Forgotten While their Moms are in Prison  (Read 12652 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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Making Sure Kids Aren't Forgotten While their Moms are in Prison
« on: December 20, 2011, 08:26:33 AM »
Making sure kids aren't forgotten while their moms are in prison

Inspired by an ex-inmate's story, Roosevelt University students buy Christmas gifts in the names of mothers who are doing time


By Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune reporter

December 20, 2011

Samantha Roque rummaged through a pile of boxes Thursday until she located the frothy lime-green outfit she had bought.

"I had so much fun picking this one out," she said, displaying the merchandise. "Every little girl should have a tutu."

The Roosevelt University senior may have done the shopping, but all Roque knows about the recipient is that she is 3 years old, lives on the South Side and her mother is at Dwight Correctional Center, a prison about 80 miles away.

Celebrating the holiday while a parent is incarcerated is a reality for more American families this year than ever. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of female prisoners in the U.S. has doubled since 1990. Three-quarters of those are mothers, with most having children under

But moms aren't the only ones who do time. The children they leave behind are at risk for a long list of troubles, from school failure to depression to winding up behind bars themselves.

The tutu-and-leggings ensemble is just part of the bounty being wrapped up by Roosevelt students and faculty. The inaugural project aims to make Christmas just a little brighter for a small group of these kids by buying gifts and delivering them in the name of their mothers.

While it may not be the stuff of sugarplums and winter wonderlands, even a small gesture can make a big difference in children's lives, said Gail T. Smith of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, a nonprofit that helps female offenders maintain ties with their offspring.

"It's so easy for children to feel that their mother is gone," Smith said. "To know that Mom is thinking of them and loves them is vitally important to their well-being."

Nationwide, the number of women in prisons has steadily increased over the last two decades, mostly due to stiffer drug sentencing, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In Illinois, there are about 2,900 female prisoners, according to the Illinois Department of Correction's 2010 annual report.

The consequences of a mother's absence can affect even the youngest children, Smith said. "The separation trauma can be so great for toddlers that they will just stop eating. It's like, 'I won't take a bottle from anyone else, so now you have to give her back to me.'"

The Roosevelt project started last month after a former inmate spoke to the school's Criminal Justice Society. The mother of five related the challenges of keeping her family together while she was in prison, especially after the children's guardians — first, a maternal grandmother, then a maternal grandfather — died in 2001. The state threatened to split up the children, sending them to foster care homes throughout the state. Eventually, an aunt stepped forward to care for the children.

"I really thought I was going to literally die from heartache … the pain was unbearable," said the 45-year-old woman, who served a seven-year sentence for cocaine possession and is now doing her court supervision in a local recovery home. She has been clean for almost three years — her longest stretch of sobriety since she was a freshman in high school.

"I had an addiction … but I never stopped loving my kids," said the mother, who asked that her name not be used because it might affect her employment prospects and to spare her children any potential embarrassment.

Tana McCoy and LaDonna Long, two Roosevelt criminal justice professors, worked with Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers to identify 15 Chicago-area children whose mothers are incarcerated. They solicited Christmas lists from caregivers and collected donations — about $120 per child — from students, staff and others.

"These kids are victims too," McCoy said. "They just get forgotten … and many will receive nothing."

The lists tell their own story. Although cutting-edge sneakers and jeans make a showing, they are not as popular as more practical items, such as coats, gloves and scarves. One preteen displayed the conflicting emotions of puberty with her appeal for both a Justin Bieber CD and a Barbie doll.

The most extravagant wish? A game system. The most heartbreaking? It's a tossup between the 15-year-old who requested deodorant and the grandmother who asked for disposable diapers.

Amid the wrapping paper, tape and bows, Roque's little girl has amassed several boxes, which includes not just clothes, but a lifelike baby doll.

"I really got into it," Roque said. "I just ran to all the sales."

Ana Fleming, too, knew how to stretch her budget. She was shopping for a newborn — which might be perplexing for some college students, but not for the sophomore, who is the mother of a toddler. "I had a pretty good idea of what to buy."

All agreed that such personal giving infused the season with more meaning than merely writing out a check.

"I found myself regularly tearing up," McCoy said. "I even put up a tree."

Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....

“Instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.”

Offline standingbyhim

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Re: Making Sure Kids Aren't Forgotten While their Moms are in Prison
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 07:53:50 AM »
 I just needed someone one input on this situation and problem that my family has.  A freind of our family is incarcerated, she knew that she would be gone for a couple of years and she brought her daughter to stay with my mother.  The story is this, this freind has been on drugs since forever along with one of my older brothers.  When we met her she was pregnat with the baby, so my brother just took the place of this little girl father because he was dating her mother.  The baby is now 9 years old.  She has always been in and out of jail throughout this child life.  This last time she brought the little girl to my mother house for my mom to keep her until she come home in two years because she knew that my mom and faimily would take good care of her.  She has an older son who is about 27 he knew that his mother wanted my family to keep this child while she was away.  So one day he came over and to pick her up and said that he was going to bring her back.  So the weekend past and he called saying that he wasnt going to bring her back, this has taken a toll on my mother.  He said that he talked to his mother and she told him to come get her.  We know he is lying because she told my mother to keep her and to make sure she go to shcool, and she was in dwight and they have been doing relocation so we know he havent spoke to her.  He dosent even support her in no type of way.  Is there anything me and my family can or could do?  We still havent been able to talk to her yet because of the transitiong of facility and by dwight closing it will take a while before she is able to call.

Offline jaf

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Re: Making Sure Kids Aren't Forgotten While their Moms are in Prison
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 09:37:25 AM »
You could certainly call DCFS and talk to someone there.  As former foster parents, we learned that after having a child in your care for a long time, you do have some standing. 
Do you have paperwork signed by her that gave you guardianship?  I would think IDOC would require them to make legal plans for their minor children while they're inside. 

Sometimes even if DCFS can't do anything, they quietly recommend that you get advice from an attorney.  It can get costly that way, but when a child's safety and is at stake, how can we not do everything we can do? 

Offline standingbyhim

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Re: Making Sure Kids Aren't Forgotten While their Moms are in Prison
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 10:43:16 AM »
No we dont have any paperwork, nothing signed or anything.  She just brought her to my mom house and told us that she wanted us to keep her because she knew that she will be taken good care of with us.