2015 Grantee Partners
 

Women’s Fund Grant to Forsyth Jail & Prison Ministries Helps
At-Risk Daughters of Inmates Find Comfort through Restoring Family Bonds

For 15 years, Kim* has been a single mother of 8 and 16 year-old daughters Tracy* and Michelle*. Kim’s husband Steve* went to prison when he was a very young father, leaving Tracy and Michelle to grieve over their absent father. They wondered why he left and whether he cared about them. They were angry that he was not in their lives. Most of all the girls were ashamed that he was in prison.  Such emotions are typical of children of incarcerated parents. They are at a higher risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems that can lead to crime and drug abuse later in life.

Recognizing that the emotional stability of these children affects our entire community, the Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries organized “Families-in-Touch” – a multi-faceted project designed to make a positive, lasting impact on the children of incarcerated fathers and mothers. With funding from The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, Families-in-Touch organized a series of letter writing sessions, creative arts and social activities that gave 49 children the opportunity to connect to their absent parent and experience much-needed support.

Another aspect of the program involved imprisoned men. Steve and other incarcerated fathers learned how to communicate positively with their daughters during a series of classes. The sessions culminated with a Families-in-Touch one-day retreat, where 34 inmates and 49 children spent the day sharing various activities. These united family members sang, enjoyed the wonders of a magician, laughed at puppets, made crafts, and listened intently to guest speakers. For all it was a family day of laughter, affirmation and hugs. More than 100 volunteers ensured that the memories of the special day together would last a lifetime for Tracy and Michelle. Before leaving each participant was given a family photograph as a special keepsake. The children received their picture in a frame – made by the father.

“Talking, playing, laughing, eating and making a craft were all good things that bonded the girls to their dad,” said Kim. Steve will be paroled soon and is looking forward to reconnecting with his daughters: “The father-daughter activity day was the best thing I’ve done in 15 years of prison.”

“The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem has played a part in strengthening this family. Our community is blessed to have the Women’s Fund supporting women and daughters,” said Chaplain Rodney Stilwell of Forsyth Jail and Prison Ministries.

* “Kim”, “Tracy”, “Michelle” and “Steve” are pseudonyms to protect their identity.

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