Our Family2Child Literacy Program aims to keep families impacted by incarceration connected, through reading. Men and women are recorded reading a book of their choice to children left behind. Each book includes a loving personalized inscription. The books, along with the audio recordings are mailed to the children, allowing them to hear the voice of their loved one and read along with the recording. The program is present in 16 prisons throughout the state of California, and since 2011, over 8,700 men and women have participated, reaching over 18,000 children as far away as New York, Mexico and India.
Camp Grace is a 5-day music and art-based program, founded on restorative justice principles with the purpose of providing a healing space for fathers to begin building, and in some cases, restoring the relationship with their children.
Camp Grace allows children (ages 8-14) to spend extended bonding time with their incarcerated parents. Daily activities such as music and art, drumming, dancing, and writing, serve as vital healing tools and allow participants to reduce the impact of stress and trauma, which in turn allows for the increase in resilience. The daily activities provide a vital healing space for incarcerated fathers and their children, in which they process their emotions, relieve stress, and develop tools to positively express themselves without resorting to violence. The main theme of Camp Grace is a family mural, based on a simple dream: “What would a perfect day be like if my dad was not in prison”?.
The impact on the participating children is profound, as they are able to interact with other children that have an incarcerated parent. They are able to drop their shame surrounding their parent’s incarceration, and learn that they are not alone, and spend time in a safe space with other children who may be dealing with the same struggles.
The program not only benefits the incarcerated fathers and participating children; it also has an impact on institutional staff. The children see that the CDCR staff interacting with their fathers each day are not something to be feared, which leads to humanization of the CDCR staff on part of the children, and also reduces the children’s fear and anxiety. The institutional staff begins to see participating fathers as fathers, instead of simply “Inmates”. This cultural shift is critical, as it restores the incarcerated fathers’ humanity, and provides greater safety and security for the institution itself.
Since its inception, we have held 14 camps in Calipatria State Prison, High Desert State Prison, Salinas Valley State Prison, and the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. Camp Grace is held once a year as a summer camp program and is of no cost to the participating families. Since 2012, 82 fathers and 105 children have taken part in Camp Grace.
The Place4Grace and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department present the Parent and Child Connection Program; A literacy-based program with the aim of keeping parents and their child(ren) between the ages of 0-5 connected. Men and women currently experiencing incarceration in San Bernardino County are recorded reading a book to children they have left behind. Each book will be mailed to the family and will include a card provided by The Place4Grace as well as an audio recording which allows the children to hear the voice of their loved one as they read along to the story.
The Home2Stay Reentry Program serves individuals who have been formerly sentenced, incarcerated, and released from state prison by providing a unique reentry program focusing on their individual needs. The re-entry program and the services are based on a client-centered holistic approach, which focuses on the newly released citizen, their families, and their children. The goal is to reduce recidivism by addressing criminogenic risk factors which may lead to recidivism such as: lack of access to employment, job training and education; lack of life skills including financial and computer literacy; access to mental health and substance abuse counseling; family and marriage counseling, as well as stable housing and a strong support network for the newly released citizens and their families.
The program is divided in three phases:
1. Pre-Release Phase: 6 Months Prior to Release
This stage focuses on preparing the incarcerated parent and the family for the incarcerated parent’s release. A family reunification plan is prepared by addressing the needs and support required upon release and managing the expectations of what life will be like when the incarcerated parent returns home.
2. Release Phase: Day of Release
Rides home from the institution are available on the day of release in case the family is not able to be present due to distance of the institution of release and/or the cost involved. The program participant will be provided a mobile phone which includes the agency’s relevant contacts, contact information of family members, and the program participant’s parole agent. Program participants will be provided a welcome backpack with a hygiene kit, hand sanitizer, face masks, water, snacks and a $150.00 gift card for the purchase of additional items. A warm meal on the ride home to fully embrace the occasion of “coming home”.
3. Post-Release Phase: 6 Months Post Release
Monthly healing circles to provide individual and group emotional support for returning citizens, and to build a strong social support network. Assistance in obtaining a birth certificate, social security card, state ID and/or driver’s license. Financial literacy and credit building courses. Computer literacy and resume building courses. Assistance in obtaining health insurance, welfare assistance, unemployment assistance. Housing / transitional housing referrals. Referrals to A.A., N.A., CGA groups, mental health, substance abuse and licensed marriage and family counselors experienced in working with formerly incarcerated population. Referrals job training. Community building excursions with fellow formerly incarcerated members to share experiences, process and build a strong support peer network. Case management. Transportation support. Assistance with access to GED completion, completing applications to financial aid and access to continuing education. Covid-19 Rapid Release Fund: $600.00 for newly released citizens paid out incrementally in gift cards.