Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bails Bondsmen

So we are always thinking about different ways to recruit, children and volunteers. We especially want to know that the children who have an incarcerated parent are all being served. So brainstorming one day I realized that some families who often deal with incarceration might find themselves at the Bails Bondsmen. So one day last week I spent the day going downtown to tell the different offices about the program and provide brochures. I still have more to go to but I made a dent. It was very fascinating because I feel it takes a special person to be a Bails Bondsmen, I saw a man in a Hawaiian shirt playing video games, I saw men in suites, I saw it all. It was nice to be out of the cubicle today and be in my element for the day taking to people of all walks of life. Everyone that heard about the program was impressed with the roots of the program and how one man who had an incarcerated parent and had a mentor could have the vision to become mayor of Phili, a pastor, and create the Amachi Program for children to benefit in the same way he did.

It was a very productive day from talking to bails bondsmen, police officers, and youth workers. I love being out in the field and I know that there can be a domino effect. After people are empowered with the knowledge of what is going on in the community they can make a change.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Right # 7: I have the right not to be blamed or judged because of my parent's incarceration"

Yesterday I was able to listen to a conference call about "A Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents." We were all able to hear people speak to what it was like to be a child of an incarcerated mother or father and this was very powerful. These individuals talked about blame, shame, judgement, and secrecy. These issues are hard enough for adults let along children. One woman Ms. Suzie Jensen spoke of her mother being arrested for larceny. She feels that today she has to "prove to people that she can be the perfect daughter/mother/wife so as to not turn into her mother." Ironically this is "what got my mother into trouble." She wanted her children to have clothes, nice things, etc. Ms. Jensen also spoke about the idea of helping youth who are affected by incarceration. She said the idea should not be "to prevent future criminals but create future leaders." Amachi the program that I work with calls this population "Children of Promise."

Marlene Sanchez spoke as well. She had her own struggles with the juvenile justice system, dealing with her father's incarceration, and now her son's father is incarcerated. One of the most powerful things she said was that "anger protected me." I see that with the children we serve sometimes.

She had to call friends and say her name was Veronika to be able to talk to them because there was stigma attached to her family and even teachers said she would end up like her parents. Marlene was in a fight and the principal told the other girl's parents that Marlene's dad was in prison. AHHHHHHH---- Could you imagine that??? She is very open about talking to her son about his father and grandfather being locked up that the son will even tell clerks in a store that his daddy is in prison. Marlene said that her anger and resentment affected her personally and politically. Marlene was the first "youth," appointed to the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Commison.


I have been conducting more Mentoring Children of Prisoners surveys this month. I love the interaction with the children and just observing how the children live and how excited they are to meet their “Big.” Generally I do the survey the day before the Match Introduction. They always ask, “Are you my Big Sister.” It just makes me melt!!! It is amazing how children are so excited by the presence of adults…I was doing a survey for a little girl and the younger brother didn’t want to leave to pick up plastic animals for a school project because he didn’t want to miss the excitement (I felt like excitement was already there…there are 8 people who live in one side of a duplex)

It is important to me to understand the corrections world that I see Monday mornings and the everyday realities of the families and especially our “Children of Promise.” I think they can also be viewed as “Children of Transition.” When I am just talking to the children before the survey about school and what they like to do, it is incredible to find out that the majority of children have moved within the last year. And when talking to mom or grandma I often find out that they have taken a new job or might be having challenges with health. I have noticed lately that when I ask the question about gangs the children feel way too comfortable with the concept. One child wanted to clarify with me that what if it was someone he knew but not really a friend that was in a gang.

I felt a little funny after visiting the women’s prison in March because my heart ached. While the ladies were filling out the referrals one of the inmates told me her children are already a part of the program here in Nashville. I asked the names of the children because it is important to update Match Support in regards to what is going on in the family. I got the update of my life. The woman I saw before me was the mother of three siblings that always frequent kids club. The boy is so outgoing and the two little girls were very withdrawn I know that they have dealt with so much in the past when mom was incarcerated. I can’t imagine how the children are feeling!!!

I have still been doing the prison visits and following up on referrals. I scheduled seven new Amachi children the past month or so and reengaged three Amachi children. I am hoping for more referrals this next month. Many of the referrals I have been sending to other parts of Tennessee and even Arizona.

I have immensely enjoyed the opportunity in the last two weeks to visit universities and let them know about the Vista opening for August as well as working with community partners to make sure they are aware of the Amachi program. I felt really positive about a mobile nursing unit that I talked with as well. More outreach to come. Amachi Kids Club is this weekend and there will be a teen group that is doing a skit about bullying. “A diverse group of teenage actors from various Nashville high schools, The PG-13 Players (PG stands for Peer Guidance) probe hot-button issues facing young people today. Post-performance talkback sessions, in which the performers stay in character and reconcile their actions,=provide the opportunity for discussion and reflection.” (Nashville Scene)