Holiday Wish 2011…A Heartwarming Success!

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.

-Mother Teresa

In mid December, we had the pleasure of hosting over 60 children and their caregivers in a fun filled day at the Friends and Family Neighborhood Center. In addition to picking up their gifts, families were invited to snap a picture together, take part in activities, and share cookies and cider with each other.

Check out some of the photos from the event!

Friends Outside and all of the children sponsored this season give our deepest thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped make this season brighter for those impacted by incarceration. Thanks to our sponsors, over 60 children in our community received not only what money bought them but a wonderful memory to hold on to and the knowledge they are not alone and deserve more out of life.

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Information for Those Who Work with Children of Incarcerated Parents

I’ve been a social worker for a long time and it’s heartbreaking when I see our kids grow up in foster care and go from group home, to juvenile hall, to jail and then to prison. And then, I see their children come into the foster care system, and the generational cycle starts again. The corrections and child welfare system are two complicated bureaucracies, often serving the same families, but each operating on different timelines, different rules, different funding. If corrections and child welfare could put our collective resources together, perhaps we can stop this cruel, vicious cycle.”  —Susan Arding, founding member of the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative and supervising social worker for the San Francisco Human Services Agency

We know that children of incarcerated parents face unique challenges and sometimes the work can feel overwhelming.

When a Parent is Incarcerated, a primer for social workers by Friends Outside board member Yali Lincroft, provides statistics and basic information about corrections and child welfare. The guide addresses visiting, immigration issues, and other issues social workers may be faced with.

The primer also includes Ten Tips for Kinship Caregivers of Children of Incarcerated Parents by Dee Ann Newell, Director and Founder of Arkansas Voices. This tips sheet is similar to the Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights.

Children’s Activities: November 2011

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

Preschoolers: Exploring My Pyramid for Kids

 Purpose: To expose children to healthy habits, including a balanced diet and exercise

Materials:

  1. My Pyramid sheet
  2. Butcher or Construction Paper in various colors
  3. Magazines
  4. Glue

Method:

  1. Create a wall sized My Pyramid. Be sure to proportion and label each section
  2. Converse with children about My Pyramid. Ask them what they see!
    1. What types of food go with each group?
    2. What are your favorite foods?
    3. What do the stairs represent?
    4. Why are some portions of My Pyramid larger than others? (MATH CONCEPT!)
  3. Give magazines to children to cut out food items and types of exercise (on-going project…does not have to be completed in one day)
  4. Give children their own My Pyramid to take with them

***Note: if a wall sized My Pyramid is not possible, refer to empty My Pyramid sheet

Result:

Preschoolers love bright colors and group participation. With an on-going project, they can see what their peers before them have charted. They gain an understanding about healthy body habits such as a balanced diet and exercise.

Aside from the nutrition aspect, this is an opportunity for math skills. They will analyze information presented on a chart, conceptualize a complex item as a whole and then as parts, understand symbols, and use thinking skills to categorize.

Teens: Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic

Purpose: To create an Emergency Plan in case of Zombie Apocalypse (or a hurricane, earthquake, etc)

Materials:

  1. Zombie Preparedness Comic
  2. Emergency Preparedness Checklist
  3. Pencils/Pens

Method:

  1. Refer teens to the Zombie Pandemic Comic
  2. Ask teens what their household’s Emergency Plan is
    1. If they have one, help them analyze it against the FEMA Checklist
  3. Give them an Emergency Preparedness Checklist sheet

Result:

The CDC created this campaign to raise awareness through a popular concept. The point is that ANY sort of emergency situation could arise and each household should have a plan on hand (just as each VC does). The goal is for a family to create and practice the plan together.

All Ages: Listening to Communicate and Barriers to Communication

Purpose: To discuss active listening techniques such as Open vs Closed Ended Questions and Paraphrasing

Materials:

  1. None

Method:

  1. Ask children:
    1. How do you know someone is listening to you?
    2. How does it make you feel when you feel listened to?
    3. How do you know when someone isn’t listening to you?
    4. How does it make you feel when you aren’t listened to?
  2. For younger children, try:
    1. Put on Your Listening Ears – Say dramatically “I have something important to tell you. Can anyone tell me what type of ears we need to wear in the museum?” When the  preschooler says “Listening ears” say “OK, let’s put on our listening ears. I think that mine are in my shoe (or some other funny place).” Then dramatically pretend to pull them out of your shoe and put them on. Have the preschooler find their listening ears and pretend to put them on. You can also do this with walking feet or inside voice. The trick is to be as silly and dramatic as possible. If your child forgets their manners during the situation whisper to them “You must have put your listening ears back in your belly button when I wasn’t looking. Let’s find them again and put them back on.”

Result:

Children will recognize active listening skills, which will improve communication skills with others.


Friends Outside Seeks Helps for Kids this Holiday Season

Childhood should be a time of fun, warmth, security, exploring, learning and discovery.

Children with an incarcerated parent may experience stress, anxiety, and fear.  Their lives have been disrupted; many feel as if they do not live “normal” lives. For some children this will be the first holiday season without their parent; for some it will be one in a long series of lonely holidays.

Friends Outside knows we cannot fix all issues related to having an incarcerated parent but at the very least, we can brighten the holidays for a few lonely children.

In 2010, our sponsors brightened the holiday season for over 100 children. The Holiday Wish Program offers organizations and individuals an opportunity to bring some “normalcy” to a child’s life during the holidays. We nurture, support, bring joy, and give hope to children of incarcerated parents by providing gifts and the knowledge that someone cares.

If you or your organization are interested in sponsoring a family and brightening the holidays with food and gifts, please contact Maria T. Rocero at 209-955-0701 or mrocero@friendsoutside.org for more information or complete the Sponsor Form and return via mail, email, or fax.