Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together

by Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, Inc.
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Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Bringing Baltimore Girls and Their Moms Together
Learning about new careers in the arts
Learning about new careers in the arts

The holiday times for most of us are filled with family and friends, fun and laughter, gifts and good food.  Knowing that the girls we serve through "Beyond Bars" may have a more difficult time during this time of year, we made sure that these girls know that they matter.  Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to include more activities and learning experiences for these young women.  Over the past several weeks, we have embarked on enriching field trips such as the Women's Heritage History Museum, where they learned about strong women and were exposed to various career fields. 

Another recent highlight is a field trip to a local live theatre production of Cinderella.  The story of Cinderella -- perhaps one of the best-known children's tales and read to children at a very young age --  is not just one story.  More than 500 versions have been found with origins dating back to the ninth century.  The Cinderella of the 21st Century is more reflective of the original version of this story - a girl who is self-reliant and willing to make her own future.  This message resonated with each GSBB girl attending the live play.  As a bonus, girls were taught about the many jobs it takes to produce a live play, learned about musical scores and the equipment and technology required to deliver a live play. The experience of live theatre was a first for many of them. 

Over the past several months, we have taken extra care to let the girls enjoy a spirit of Thanksgiving and giving back. We have engaged them in activities that help them create joy for others.  They made fleece blankets and donated them to the Meals on Wheels Program to be delivered with meals at the homes of home-bound residents.  During this time, each girl worked on her "journey," a name given to a special Girl Scout process that culminates in earning a badge.  The journey for the girls was titled "Agent of Change."  This is all part of making the girls feel empowered with control over their life and surroundings, something they have had abruptly disrupted with the incarceration of their mothers.  This journey slowly allows them to see a return of their world to their control, and produces great byproducts such as increased self-worth and confidence.  They learn to be great within themselves, and to know they can achieve great things despite the challenges they have faced at a young age.   They learn that they don't have to accept being abused or neglected or turn to drugs to escape.  

Girls have also learned during this time to cook together - something they cannot learn from their moms.  These experiences form a bond between these girls, that history with this program has shown us lasts into their adulthood.  

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program.  We are one of the few programs in our State that allows for trips to the prison to visit with moms.  We are granted this privilege by the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women because of the great care we take with the girls and with the rules we must observe while we are inside the institution.  An overnight stay is allowed once each year and is a special treat for both mothers and daughters, who rarely have this time for closeness.  We plan to make the 25th year special in many ways for the girls, as well as reach out to alums of this program.  We hope you will continue to support this worthwhile investment in the future of very vulnerable young women at a critical period in their lives.   

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Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Participant at summer camp
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Participant at summer camp

The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Van is a vehicle for change in every sense of the word.  Through your generous donations, the girls in the Beyond Bars Program have been transported for 18 trips to see their moms, or to participate in  "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" field trips.  

  • Visits early in 2016 to the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) included sessions with girls and their mothers on healthy living, family traditions and making exercise fun.  
  • "World Thinking Day" (WTD) a longstanding Girl Scout tradition, was the focus of activity in February where the girls chose their country of focus (Switzerland, Ghana, Mexico, United Kingdom and India were selected this year) and planned activities based on traditions, food and culture of those countries.  WTD was held at the MCIW.
  • In March, visits to MCIW celebrated National Women's Month, and activities that honored the birthday of the Founder of Girl Scouts.  
  • College Tours were also accomplished in March, with visits by the GSBB girls to Howard University and Trinity Washington University.  
  • In April, girls and moms planned their Annual Sleepover, which  this year had a luau theme.  In Mid-April, the Annual sleepover at the MCIW was held, so all girls were transported yet again using this wonderful new van.
  • In May, Scout Day is celebrated at Six Flags.  The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars girls met girls from other troops and got a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the shows at this park.  
  • Later that month, GSBB girls attended a first aid training program at Girl Scouts of Central Maryland (GSCM) facilities, and went to GSCM's rustic camp, Camp Woodlands, for a weekend of camping. Several young ladies achieved many great accomplishments at camp, from mastering swimming to getting "up close" with animal life.  
  • In June, as is tradition nationwide, girls from the GSBB program received the badges they earned during the year, received their next-level uniforms (for bridging from Brownie to Junior, or Junior to Cadette, etc.) and new girls were given their first year uniforms and supplies.  All of this is done in the presence of their mothers, who cheered them on during this investiture/rededication ceremony.  
  • Meetings at MCIW in July and August focused on Girl Scouts 101, Back-to-School activities and welcomed them back to a new year of Girl Scouting.  
  • Girls again travelled to MCIW to focus on earning a "Performance Badge."  This exciting new Journey will introduce girls to all aspects of the performance arts from production to technology to artistic expression.  The culminating event of this badge activity will be the attendance at a live play in Baltimore, funded with the support of a local Bar Association.  
  • Eleven GSBB troop girls visited the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center in Baltimore on October 1 to have fun learning about famous Maryland women in the fields of art, literature, STEM and much more. They tried on child-sized lab coats and astronaut suits and created drawings honoring women in the museum.  

GSBB used this new van to transport these girls and young women to places in which amazing experiences left lasting impressions.    Without your support, the positive impact on these families would not have been possible.  

GSBB participants exploring careers in STEM
GSBB participants exploring careers in STEM
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Jordyn Richardson at Camp Woodlands
Jordyn Richardson at Camp Woodlands

Thanks to generous donors like you, we were able to purchase a van for transporting girls to the Maryland Correction Insitution for Women (MCIW) for troop meeting and to other activities.  Since then, our girls have been on the move! 

In April, during a troop meeting at MCIW, girls and their mothers planned the Annual Sleepover, which was held at MCIW in April with a luau theme: grass skirts, leis, Hawaiian pizza and decorations. Eighteen girls, 11 mothers and five volunteers participated in the sleepover. In addition to sharing dinner and breakfast, girls spent time with their mothers doing badge work, arts and crafts, and playing games.

In May a troop meeting focusing on first aid was held at the Girl Scout of Central Maryland’s (GSCM) Seton office. A police officer and three nurses taught the girls how to recognize signs of injury and get help from 911. Volunteers helped girls create first aid kits and bandage-themed SWAPS.  Later in May, 15 girls had a weekend at Camp Woodlands in Annapolis. Although the weekend was rainy and chilly, the girls had fun learning about animals from a Girl Scout ranger, and cooking s'more treats. They also created skits, did science projects and completed two service projects at the camp. 

On June 18, a investiture, bridging and rededication took place at MCIW. New girls received their uniforms and older girls received this year’s badges or next-level uniforms, while their mothers applauded.

With the support of donors like you, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars gives girls with incarcerated mothers a more normal childhood.  The camping trips, the sleepovers, the investitures--these are are critical activities that help our girls, who are often isolated and stigmatized by their peers, overcome these obstacles and gain the confidence and strength they need to succeed in life. 

Over 1,000 women and daughters have been touched by the Maryland Beyond Bars program, and many more have benefitted.  Thank you for helping Girl Scouts of Central Maryland make a difference with Beyond Bars! 

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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.  

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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! 

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Organization Information

Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, Inc.

Location: Baltimore, MD - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @gscentralmd
Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, Inc.
Trish Cassatt
Project Leader:
Trish Cassatt
Baltimore, MD United States

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