Reconnecting Families on Father's Day and Year-round

19 June 2017

Over half of the men and women incarcerated in the U.S. are parents of minor children. To encourage family connectivity – a key factor in a person’s successful reentry – Osborne’s nationally recognized FamilyWorks program enables incarcerated parents to make, mend, and maintain relationships with their children through a comprehensive program that now operates in eight New York State prisons, Rikers Island, and at Osborne’s community sites. Our strengths-based, family-focused approach leaves people with the understanding that they have the right, the responsibility, and the capacity to meet the needs of their children and families. FamilyWorks is operated in collaboration with the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and includes Family Centers in visiting rooms and supportive services for children and families. Family Centers are child-friendly areas of prison visiting rooms where parents can bond with their children and interact with them more than they could sitting at a visiting room table. 

Holidays can be an especially difficult time for children of incarcerated parents and for our participant families. Because of the distance, many families were not able to visit their family members in prison this past Father's Day weekend. Others, spent Father's Day in a prison visiting room. To help make visiting during holidays feel more normal for the families, our Family Centers are open during visiting hours, with crafts and games available. This past weekend at Sing Sing Correctional Facility children visited their dads, grandpas, and other family members. See below for pictures and descriptions of their time together. 

Osborne's Family Center in the visiting room at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. 

 

The Family Centers are full of games, crafts, toys, books, puzzles, and more so that kids do not have to sit at a table for their entire visit. They also give the men a way to interact and engage with their children. Family Centers are open to anyone, not just participants in Osborne's FamilyWorks program. 

On Father's Day, the kids played with sand art and made Father's Day cards for their dads or grandpas. One dad jokingly told his daughter that if she did not get good grades in school, she would have to separate her mixed, colorful sand art back into each color, piece by piece. The FamilyWorks program teaches parenting skills to participants and encourages them to remain an active part of their child's life despite their separation due to incarceration. 

The Family Center at Sing Sing is run by Osborne staff with the support of our program clerk, Wilfredo Laracuente, pictured below. Wilfredo says he enjoys watching the families interact with each other. "It's a rare time for the kids to be away from their phones and away from screens," he said. "At first, it may be a little awkward for them because they don't know what to say or do. But I watch as they eventually warm up to each other, which creates a great opportunity for the families to bond. That is what is so great about the Family Centers, it gives families something to do." Wilfredo has two daughters of his own, and recently became a grandfather. He is expecting a visit from his daughter in the next couple months to meet his new grandchild. 

During Father's Day weekend, family members were also given the option to have their picture taken. Osborne staff will send one copy to the dad at Sing Sing and will frame and send another copy to the family. 

Osborne has long been a champion for children of incarcerated parents and supported the visiting rights of families with incarcerated family members. Recently, Assemblymember David Weprin and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa introduced two bills: 1) to increase visiting days at medium security prisons to seven days a week, and 2) to restore the visiting bus program that ended in 2011. We look forward to supporting these bills in the next legislative session, while also continuing to make the visiting experience for children and families as humane and supportive as possible through our Family Centers. 

Join us in supporting the rights of children of incarcerated parents by participating in our Ride for Rights, a 1.54-mile Prospect Park bike ride to honor the bravery and resilience of the 2.7 million children with incarcerated parents in the United States.