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Apr 15, 2016

Approaching the GSBB 25th Anniversary!

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Troop on a college tour
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Troop on a college tour

The 25th Anniversary of the Maryland Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) program is right around the corner -- 2017. GSCM has partnered with the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) since 1992 to provide the Beyond Bars Program. Central Maryland's program has been replicated in 30 states.  Girl Scout Beyond Bars  programs in other states have been built upon the foundation established in Maryland & have stimulated new ideas in addressing the social problems created by incarceration of mothers, particularly those whose families live in poverty.  Nearly 400 women have participated, along with approximately 600 daughters.  While nearly 1,000 women & daughters have been touched by the Maryland Beyond Bars program, many more have benefitted.   

Many of the Beyond Bars mothers are serving long-term sentences and have remained in the program for several years.  For some, this has been until their daughter reaches age 18.  Some mothers have more than one daughter, so there are more girls than moms participating in the program.    

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars helps daughters, and their mothers, be more grounded, encouraged, compassionate & skilled.   As one of the girls in our GSBB troop said, “Without Girl Scouts I would not be the same person.  Girl Scouts has enriched my life and I am greatly appreciative.” 

Children of inmates are the hidden victims of their parents' crimes.Today, we have more children with an incarcerated parent in the U.S. than are diagnosed with autism or juvenile diabetes.  Children of incarcerated parents are at increased risk for internalizing (depression, anxiety, withdrawal) & externalizing (e.g., delinquency, substance use), behavior problems & school failure.  Children with incarcerated mothers are more likely to experience disruption in the caregiving environment which puts the child at risk for insecure or disrupted attachment relationships.   Among parents who lived with their children prior to incarceration, nearly all mothers (89%) provided financial support for the family.  The loss of financial support, in turn, impacts the child’s living arrangement including separation from siblings, friends & their community, & negatively impacts school stability. There is prevalence of high drop out rates among these children & of children entering kindergarten unprepared.  In GSBB, 86% of the high schoolers & 79% of girls in grades 4-8 are doing better in school since they’ve been in GSBB.  The outcomes achieved by GSBB have demonstrated the value of the program. Some of these outcomes can be summed up in recent comments from the girls' guardians:

 “Girl Scouts just got a little more special since there is no human contact allowed at MCIW.  The moms can’t even hold their babies anymore.  The only human touch is at the Girl Scouts visits.  God Bless you all.

 “I just got a call from the teacher at my great-niece’s school.  The teacher said this is the best week that she has had at school & wanted to know what happened.  I said she joined Girl Scouts & spent quality time with her mom.”   

“It was a very sad day this July.  My math equations were 9 years (the age of the child) + 8 years (the sentence).  And how much will it cost to visit her mom in prison?  Thank you for giving this young lady an opportunity to spend time with her mommy.”

With the help and support of donors through Global Giving, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars gived girls with incarcerated mothers a more normal childhood.  Some of the girls were isolated & stigmatized & could not relate to their peers in school.  Conversations about even the most ordinary life events (birthdays, summer vacation, and holidays) were fraught with embarrassment & sadness for these daughters.  GSCM Beyond Bars program is often the most stable & consistent influence these girls have.   The girls have bonded with each other and they have enjoyed activities that enable them to share experiences & feelings with girls who understand the pain of growing up while mom is away in prison. 

MCIW has provided GSBB with use of a gymnasium that allows for troop meetings & close interaction between mothers & daughters.   MCIW has provided meeting space, lunch & security staff during troop activity held at MCIW. The prison also provided space for our annual sleepover in the prison gym & provides bedding, security & televisions for watching pre-approved movies.  GSBB staff & volunteers have provided enrichment activities for mothers and daughters.  GSBB has organized and supervised camping trips for these girls, coordinated entrepreneurial/financial literacy programs & organized group college visits that allow the girls to learn about financial aid & the college application process. This gives girls the confidence to pursue better lives & hope for the future.

The prison seeks to return former offenders to society with the tools necessary to keep them from re-offending. Participating in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars is a powerful incentive for the mothers to develop the patience & grace needed to avoid committing infractions, which could prompt removal from the GSBB program. The quality time they spend with their daughters, hugging, sharing confidences & life lessons, helps strengthen the bonds that will make re-entry into society smoother for those who are someday released. Activities during Beyond Bars mothers’ meetings -- from learning techniques for stress reduction to creating  colorful sheets of affirmations to give their daughters – help the mothers develop the character needed to navigate successfully while in prison & after release.  

Gifts secured through Global Giving have enabled not only the purchase of a van for transporting the girls to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, but it has also allowed for robust programs to be delivered to these vulnerable families.  

Jan 19, 2016

Daughters are reunited with their mothers!

15 passenger van for the Beyond Bars Program!
15 passenger van for the Beyond Bars Program!

Thanks to your generosity, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland was able to purchase a new 15-passenger van by Christmas Day, 2015.  The van has already made several voyages to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women with many, many grateful daughters on board. 

We hope you will watch for our new postings on this site, to see all the great work that has been made possible with your help.

Despite the explosive growth in the number of mothers who are in prison – Girl Scouts of Central Maryland is one of a handful of programs designed to support incarcerated mothers and their children.

The goals for the moms and daughters we serve are:

  • strengthen the bond between mother and child;  
  • minimize the trauma and feeling of separation that children face when their mother is in prison; 
  • assure that the parent-child interactions are as beneficial as possible for the child;
  • help prepare the mother to interact positively with her daughter. 

Scholarly literature suggests that children need the ability to visit their incarcerated mothers in a safe, non-hostile environment. The gymnasium area at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women provides space to GSCM that allows for play, troop meetings, and close interaction between mothers and daughters. Providing mothers with an opportunity to play an active role in the decisions that affect their daughter is also an important goal of the program.

With your support of a new transport van, all of these goals are within reach! 

Links:

Oct 20, 2015

AlmostThere!

Cierra & Mom make memories & T-shirts
Cierra & Mom make memories & T-shirts

On My Honor…Be a Sister to Every Girl Scout.

We started our meeting as usual, with an opening circle. Yet this one was different; it was bittersweet. “On My Honor, I will try…” Those were the words that were gently spoken by our oldest scout, Jamie, as she opened her last meeting as a Girl Scout in Troop 7856.   This year, Jamie became an 18-year-old high school graduate. She has been a member of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) since kindergarten and this was her last meeting. She had being coming to see her mom, Anne Marie, at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women even before she was able to participate in the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program. But it was through this program that Jamie was able to share intimate moments that don’t happen during a regular visit when a mother is incarcerated. During the past 13 years of scouting in GSBB, Jamie has been to Africa and Costa Rica, gone camping and attended annual GSBB sleepovers with her mom.

Jamie stepped into the circle and began reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Domonique, Program Specialist for Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Program, nudged Anne Marie to join her daughter in the circle but Anne Marie held back -- until Jamie reached out her hand and gingerly pulled her mother into the circle with her. They recited the rest of the Girl Scout Law arm in arm. With their arms still interlocked, Jamie and her mom rejoined the circle and Jamie explained why she had been selected to open the meeting. “It has been a great 13 years here with my mom and this is my last meeting,” she explained.

And then the moment came, time to say goodbye to her mom and “sisters”/fellow Girl Scouts. Jamie hugged her mom and eased out of the door. It is what happened next that solidified how impactful and necessary this program truly is. Justice, who has also participated in the Beyond Bars program since her early elementary school days, turned to Jamie, linked arms and said, “We’ve been in this together for awhile… since Amanda” (Jamie’s older sister Amanda had previously aged out of the program).

“Yep, soon it will be your turn,” Jamie said to Justice. Justice will be the next girl in the troop to graduate from high school and age out of the Beyond Bars program. The two girls are of different races, from different counties, with different post-high school aspirations. But, unified through Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, they remained linked arm in arm as they walked out of the prison gymnasium, up the stairs, down a long hallway, through the gate house, all the way to the front entrance of the prison, while talking about their years and experiences in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. It is moments like this, which most people don’t see, that make this program worth every donation and more. 

To our supporters and friends, we want to give you the good news that Girl Scouts of Central Maryland has been given a generous donation by a local foundation, which makes the purchase of a van much closer to a reality for us. Our Beyond Bars program has been busy this fall, with a Career Fair and other activities. We registered mothers and girls for the new Girl Scout year, which began October 1. Uniforms and books were purchased for new girls joining our GSBB troops. 

During our most recent sleepover at the prison, the girls and their moms decorated T-shirts to memorialize their time together. One mom and daughter show off their beautiful work in the photo below.

Please help us buy our van before the cold weather sets in. We need just $6,000 more to buy a passenger van outright. A gift by October 21, 2015 will also secure our place in the Global Giving Open Challenge.

 
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