Habitot Launches Program for
Released Prisoners & their Families
with Trio Foundation Support
(Berkeley, CA) March 6, 2012
Habitot Children’s Museum is pleased to announce the launch of a new program, Together Again (Family Reengagement for Released Prisoners), thanks to a generous $10,000 grant from the Trio Foundation. Through Together Again, recently incarcerated mothers and their children will re-connect and bond with safe and enriching play in the museum.
More than half of the imprisoned adults in America are parents with one or more minor children. Since 1986, the number of incarcerated women has skyrocketed, increasing by 400%. Though their children face alarming consequences, these families have largely been ignored, and don’t receive the support they need to maintain family bonds during or after incarceration.
Factors such as unwelcoming prison policies and spaces, and the expense of traveling to and from prisons, mean that many incarcerated parents have difficulty maintaining relationships with their children. Soon-to-be-released prisoners ask themselves -- “will my child know me?” “how can I talk to my child?” and “will my child still want me after I’ve been gone so long?”
“There is evidence that many children are not prepared for their parent’s release from prison and that incarcerated parents are often not adequately prepared to resume a parenting role,” writes Casie Finney Hairston, Ph.D. in her overview of research on children with incarcerated parents prepared for the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Oct 2007).
To help support formerly incarcerated mothers and their children in the Bay Area, Habitot Children’s Museum has partnered with Centerforce, a prisoners’ support organization providing services to incarcerated women at Santa Rita Jail and incarcerated men at San Quentin Federal Penitentiary, to begin the Family Reengagement for Released Prisoners project.
The Trio Foundation support of Together Again will offer an emphasis on fun, safety, and education for recently released mothers and their preschool-aged children. The time that children spend with their parents is critical for developing a healthy relationship. Time together could not be more valuable for these families, whose bonds have been damaged by separation.
Habitot’s reintegration art and play-sessions create an opportunity for recently incarcerated mothers and their children to relax and experience natural playtime while the children learn from Habitot’s enriching environment. Facilitation by experienced Centerforce and Habitot staff will supply parents with tools to engage with their children and strengthen family bonds.
Thanks to the Trio Foundation grant, Habitot Children’s Museum and Centerforce will hold eight free Together Again sessions over the course of one year. The Together Again program, run by Rachel Kadner & Dolores Lyles, launched its first session Thursday, March 6 from 3pm to 5pm.
The participating mothers are recently released mothers from Santa Rita Jail whose children reside in Alameda County. All are engaged in Centerforce’s MOMS (Maximizing Opportunities for Mothers to Succeed) program and are receiving intensive counseling from Centerforce staff.
According to Dolores Lyles of Centerforce, who is very familiar with the challenges facing these families, “There is a great need for programs which can…help the family heal, bond, and reunify. Habitot’s program will greatly benefit these moms and kids. They are dealing with a lot. Issues of bonding, trust, denial, feelings of abandonment. With Together Again, they are participating in important, quality enrichment activities that they wouldn’t normally do on their own. These kinds of activities can soften those wounds.”
Habitot and Centerforce are grateful to the Trio Foundation for the chance to create Together Again, and to work together to provide meaningful experiences for parents and their children at Habitot, deepening family connections.
Since opening in 1998, Habitot Children’s Museum has been recognized as the “best museum for families” by Bay Area Parent Magazine readers and as a “five star destination” by the Lila Guide, along with numerous other accolades for its educational programs and community outreach. In 2010, Habitot was designated a “Top Non-profit” by GreatNonprofits, a leading provider of reviews and ratings of nonprofit organizations.
In 2009, Habitot was named “Best of the Gay Bay.” In 2008, Habitot was named the Parent’s Pick Winner of Best Museum for Little Kids in the San Francisco Bay Area at Nickelodeon’s parentsconnect.com. In addition, Habitot’s founder, Gina Moreland, has been honored for her years of public service with a Bay Area “Jefferson Award”, as well as with a 2006 proclamation from the City of Berkeley as “Early Childhood Champion of the Year.” In December 2009, Habitot was awarded continuation of a First 5 grant from Alameda County for its targeted parent education programs that serve special needs families, LGBTQ families, teen parent families, caregivers and homeless families. 86% of these participants polled in 2009 felt that the services made a significant difference for their family.
Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704