At the end of the day, we could all use an extra dose of hope and strength. Hope that things will get better, and strength to hold on until it does. The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) girls have seen how life may not become easier, but that they can become resilient by leaning on the hope and strength that comes from people who care about them. Having an absent mother is hard enough, but not being able to see her can be devastating. Since March, 2020, many of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars girls have not seen their mother.
Prior to the pandemic, on at least two Saturdays a month, girls made sacrifices of having sleepovers with friends, hanging out on Fridays and getting up extremely early on Saturdays to visit with mom. This time is important since mom is not with them everyday to talk about everyday things such as homework, and growing up. Kaylin, a senior this year, made the most of her time spent with mom by sharing what life is like at home, how she is helping to care for her younger sister, going to school and working. Kaylin made sacrifices to have a meaningful and strong bond with her mom --who is serving a life sentence. She is able to thrive having only a small dose of what is considered a norm for many others - a loving mother at home. Most of our girls live with a grandparent, many of whom did not anticipate raising a child after their own children where grown and on their own. Grandmother Bree is raising two of her grandchildren by way of her incarcerated daughter. Grandma B says that she is grateful for Girl Scouts as her granddaughter Alaya, a first grader, asks constantly about going to Girl Scouts to see her mommy. Before GSBB, Grandma B struggled to take the children to see their mom. It is a lot to navigate two young children under 7 in any situation, let alone two with special needs, and no transportation.
Per the National Institute of Justice,children whose parents are incarcerated are at higher risk for increased antisocial behaviors and psychological problems, such as depression. Whether this translates into decreased educational attainment, involvement with the criminal justice system, and other negative outcomes depends on the child's resilience and his/her social support network. Thank you for your support of the social network that these girls rely on.
Recent research indicates the pandemic has impacted children more than any other group. Self-harm, abuse, and neglect have risen dramatically. Extended family who serve as guardians of GSBB girls are overwhelmed with new responsibilities for academic instruction, sometimes in the face of increased economic hardship, food or housing insecurity, or job loss. The affect of the caronavirus on these young women and their guardians will be felt far into the future.
Girl Scouts has been able to remain a stable presence in their lives, provide respite for the guardians and offer girls other ways to stay connected to their mother. During the past three months, girls participated in camp activities, prepared holiday gifts for first responders as a service project, and are competing in a mask-design contest. They have been constantly reminded, through Girl Scouts, that they are needed and capable. In the coming weeks, girls and guardians are anticipating the re-opening of schools for in-person learning. The return to visits with their moms who reside at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women may also be possible within the next two months.
Your support has been invaluable - the highest form of charity and justice - to sustain girls in their journey to become self-sufficient and strong women during their formative years.
We wanted to share with you some of the notes and images that the girls are exchanging with their mothers during this pandemic period, while visits to their moms in the prison, even virtually in many cases, are not possible.
The young women in Girl Scouts of Central Maryland's Beyond Bars and GIFT programs are isolated from their mothers and family during a time that will go down in history as one of the most frightening periods in their lives. Most of us can relate to the feeling of loss of control that COVID19 has produced - and the vulnerability we all have to contracting a virus that can be life-changing. For these Girl Scout families, with mothers or daughters living in a confined environment, that vulnerability is compounded. These settings, whether the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women or the Waxter Children's Center, have been shown to be an environment with higher risk for the spread of this virus.
These mothers and daughters have built a strong sense of courage, confidence and character through Girl Scouts --to be resourceful and resilient. This knowledge and set of skills have served them in ways they could not have imagined. Girls and troop leaders have strengthened their bonds during this unprecedented time through activities designed to provide enriching experiences and respite.
But there is more work to be done in the face of new challenges. These young women need our support and attention now more than ever. GSCM has worked to overcome new obstacles occasioned by the stay-at-home orders, and the prohibition of visitors, to keep girls and families connected in other ways. Disposable cameras, materials and supplies have allowed girls to create photo journals for their mothers. They look forward to communicating with their moms, even amidst all the challenges they face of isolation from friends, school and family. Zyan's note is so touching, telling her mom about what makes her happy and said. Her questions to her mom are written with the hope that her mom will write back to her soon. The photos show that Girl Scouts can discover, connect and take action no matter where they are.
In an effort to help close the digital divide exposed in many communities as a result of COVID19, GSCM is raising funds and in-kind donations to provide computers with pre-installed software to many girls. We hope that this can be another tool for girls to connect with their familes.
These opportunities would not be possible without the continued generosity of volunteers and donors. Girl Scout families extend their most heartfelt thanks for your continued interest in their success.
The young women who are Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) started 2020 with great hopes for a new year. They had just concluded an impressive entrepreneurship program, selling Girl Scout Cookies to the workers and their moms at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW). Girls were starting to plan the long-awaited annual overnight stay at MCIW with their mothers. In February, they joined with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world to celebrate “World Thinking Day,” a Girl Scout tradition, which had a theme this year of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. After just participating in an historic Baltimore City Suffrage dedication, this theme was particularly meaningful to them. Girls produced creative tributes to equity, diversity and inclusion such as friendship bracelets. During this time, there was also the joyful return of a former troop member, Amy, who had not been with Girl Scouts Beyond Bars for some time. Amy was living with a family friend named Aunt Sophie since she started Girl Scouts with the GSBB troop as a Daisy in Kindergarten. She is now a Junior, in fourth grade. She loved to be helpful to troop leaders and to interact with the younger Girl Scouts at meetings and camping trips. Amy was a sweet girl, fun-loving and known for her appetite. Her troop leader is not sure exactly what happened, but the mother informed the troop in the fall that Amy would be moving to foster care and would not be returning to GSBB. It was shared that destructive behaviors had caused Aunt Sophie to request this move to another home. The troop leader hadn't noticed any of these behaviors in Amy. As the news was shared with the other troop leaders; they were so saddened by the news that Amy couldn't attend future troop meetings; that they were bought to tears. Happily, a few weeks after Amy was placed with a foster family she was able to come to meetings again! The transition was difficult for Amy, her new family, and Amy's mother. But the Girl Scout sisters and troop leaders were a welcoming safety net to help through this transition. So 2020 was starting out as a great year, full of hope, for all the girls in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. And that was the last meeting before the CoVid-19 Pandemic. Girl Scouts is staying connected to the girls remotely, offering activities through the GSUSA Volunteer Toolkit. Girl Scout troop leaders' connections to the girls’ guardians have become stronger, and GSCM is supporting these families with virtual enrichment activities and connectedness that adds a bit of normalcy in the face of extraordinary challenges. Currently, there are needs for technology resources in the homes of these Girl Scouts, in order to stay connected with school and with GSBB. We are trying to help fill extraordinary needs for these young women at an extraordinary time in their young lives. Over the next few months, using a transitional hybrid model to reach and serve these Girl Scouts, the resiliency, flexibility and vibrancy of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars will be shown to prevail.
Young women who are members of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars troop in Central Maryland were able to accomplish many extraordinary accomplishments with the help and support of donors and volunteers. Girls became entrepreneurs and created their own business plan for the iconic cookie sale. Then they put their plan into action at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, selling to families and staff.
A special event acknowledging the contributions of two African American women to the suffrage movement was held in Baltimore City, at the homes in which these women lived and contributed significantly to that movement. Girls from the GSBB troop prepared for this historically significant event by earning voting rights badges, and learning about civic engagement and responsibility. They then officiated at this event marking the 100th anniversary of the suffrage movement. While these leadership experiences are critical components of the GSBB program, girls and mothers also continued to experience regular biweekly troop meetings at the correctional institution. Sessions, held both separately and together at each visit, focus on many topics important to these mothers and their daughters. They plan for Girl Scout traditions, such as World Thinking Day, and for the theme and activities of their annual overnight stay which is planned for April. A brief news report was publicized during the past few weeks and this link will let you see the program in action. https://www.wbaltv.com/article/girl-scouts-beyond-bars-prison-visit-mothers/29773923
The Girl Scouts in our Beyond Bars Troop spent the day taking action and cleaning up a stream and park.
The girls cleaned up multiple bags of trash in Herring Run Park in East Baltimore. Many neighbors stopped by to thank the girls for their service and interest in beautifying their community.
Currently, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars is serving 33 girls. Over the past 25 years, more than 400 girls have been given the support they need as they cope with the loss of a parent and the isolation that comes from the stigma of their mothers’ involvement in the criminal justice system.
Your commitment to Girl Scouts Beyond Bars helps us ensure that ALL girls in central Maryland have the opportunity to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.
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