When Jenny was sick with strep throat around Christmas last year, nothing made her feel better except a DVD she’d received from her mom, who was incarcerated at the time.
From her sickbed on the couch, Jenny followed along with the video and watched as her mom read her a book.
The video made Jenny feel better, said Cheri Fuller, executive director of Redeeming the Family, a nonprofit that provides support to children in Oklahoma whose parents are incarcerated.
“Over and over, we hear children say it felt like my mother was in the room,” Fuller said.
Jenny (not her real name) is one of an estimated 7,071 children whose mothers are currently incarcerated in Oklahoma prisons, according to the state Department of Corrections annual report for fiscal year 2012. Oklahoma incarcerates 121 women per 100,000 people, compared with the national average, which is 65.
Redeeming the Family officials say research has shown that when a child’s parent is incarcerated, the child is more likely to become depressed or suicidal and is more likely to perform poorly in school or be arrested.
The nonprofit aims to change that cycle through the Oklahoma Messages Program, which brings volunteers into prisons to film mothers and fathers talking to their children and reading them a book.
According to the program’s most recent survey results, designed by Fuller and University of Oklahoma professor David McLeod, the videos are changing children’s outcomes and outlooks.
According to the outcome survey, 81 percent of children experienced moderate to huge increases in sadness and depression after their parent was incarcerated, and 84 percent experienced a moderate to huge increase in stress and anxiety.
After viewing the DVDs, 65 percent of children said their sadness and depression decreased, and 54 percent had less anger and acted out less, according to the survey.
Bridging a gap
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At a glance
How to help
To donate, go to redeemingthefamily.org or send money to Redeeming the Family, The Messages Project, P.O. Box 8073, Edmond, OK 73083.
Making a difference
After a parent was arrested or
After watched a DVD from their parent:
Source: Oklahoma Message Project
2013-14 outcome survey
Over and over, we hear children say it felt like my mother was in the room.”executive director of Redeeming the Family