The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Program gives daughters of incarcerated mothers access to community activities that foster team-building and healthy decision making skills. GSCM provides regular Girl Scout troop meetings with their moms at Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, an annual sleep-over, educational sessions to build self-esteem and empower them to reach their full potential. Girl Scouts of Central Maryland operates the first and longest running Beyond Bars program in the nation.
When a mother is incarcerated, the victims are often the children. There is no opportunity to prepare a child for this type of abrupt separation. In Baltimore, families are often single parent families, so when the mom is removed, the child is powerless & vulnerable. There is a drop in academic performance & social stigma lowers one's self-esteem. Acting-out behavior - including violence- begins with disconnection. A trusting relationship with one's mom is important to these girls' future.
Beyond Bars has operated since 1992. Long-term outcomes show that these girls fare better in school, relationships & career than girls who lose connection with their moms. Girl Scouts takes girls to the institution in which their moms are detained, & facilitates productive quality time-- time for creating memories, having special moments & bonding, so that trust can be re-established. In field trips, girls gain more than academic knowledge. They explore, learn teamwork & responsibility.
Started in Maryland, Beyond Bars has been studied & verified as a national best practice & has been replicated by Girl Scout Councils across the nation. Long term effects include: better grades in school, completion of high school & beyond; ability to form & maintain healthy relationships; & gaining a positive self-image. Studies by the National Girl Scouts Research Institute demonstrated long term positive effects for the mothers, too, in setting goals & achieving them.