The following post appears courtesy of the Bureau of Prison’s Director Charles E. Samuels
This past weekend, the Bureau of Prisons held its first ever Universal Children’s Day, a visiting event for inmates and their families. This special visiting weekend provided a wonderful opportunity for inmates to deepen bonds with their children and strengthen their roles as parents through various activities and workshops. With more than 123,000 federal inmates who have children under the age of twenty-one, BOP is committed to giving inmates opportunities to enhance their relationship with their children and their role as parents. There is no substitute for looking your children in the eye and letting them know you care about them.
I was pleased by the large number of children that were able to visit with their incarcerated parents. Nearly 8,500 children visited more than 4,000 federal inmates during this special weekend. Our institutions across the country collaborated with their local communities to make the event a tremendous success and many featured activities such as storytelling, face painting, parenting workshops, family worship services and holiday-themed arts and crafts. At Oklahoma’s Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, dairy calves were on hand for a petting zoo and fire trucks were featured from the local fire department. In addition to activities, each institution provided families with a helpful toolkit including Sesame Street’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” booklets and DVDs, “Mommies and Daddies in Prison” by Sue Jeweler and Judi Goozh, and children’s coloring pages and parenting tip sheets. These materials are aimed to help provide support to children and help them understand, express and cope with the feelings that come with having incarcerated parents.
For some inmates this was the first time they read a book to their child or drew a picture together. My hope is that this is just the beginning, for many mothers and fathers, of a sustained journey back into the lives of their children and their roles as parents. We are always looking for new ways to help inmates enhance their parenting and other skills that are related to a successful return to the community. This weekend’s events were certainly a great start!
For more information and additional resources and supports for children of incarcerated parents, please visit http://findyouthinfo.gov/youth-topics/children-of-incarcerated-parents.