Family Reconciliation Center (FRC) gets close to the many families who use our guest house to keep their bonds strong with incarcerated family members. We get especially close to frequent visitors.
One FRC family from East Tennessee used to visit their mom and wife nearly every weekend and stayed at the FRC guest house in West Nashville. About four years ago, however, they quit visiting for a good reason—their relative was paroled.
I thought of that family when I read recently about a Dallas-based nonprofit, Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM). Their tagline is “breaking the cycle/building the bond,” and their founder is Brittany K. Barnett, whose mother was incarcerated when Barnett was a young adult.
Up until now GEM focused on families in Texas, working to break the cycle of incarceration by empowering girls in kindergarten through grade 12 to lead successful lives. It makes visitation with incarcerated moms possible, sponsors summer camps for the girls, and advocates for policies that help maintain family ties.
Barnett says research shows girls of incarcerated mothers fare worse than if their mothers were deceased. Incarceration, Barnett said during a recent webinar, is a “primal wound when it’s your parent.”
GEM just received $250,000 from United Women in Faith (formerly known as United Methodist Women), funding that will allow GEM it to expand to Mississippi and Arkansas.
The United Women in Faith (UWF) said the gift comes at a time when incarceration of women in the U.S. has more than quadrupled—from 26,326 in 1980 to 152,854 in 2020, according to The Sentencing Project. Ending mass incarceration and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline is one of the priority issues for UWF. The statistics on incarceration are frightening enough, but consider that nearly half of incarcerated moms serve their sentences without visits from their children.
At FRC, we want to continue to spotlight organizations like GEM, and to help tell their story of families one by one. Just like GEM, our goal is to make sure daughters, moms, sons, and fathers have every chance at being reconciled and restored.