“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
For the last fourteen years, I have had the privilege of developing unique, faith-based social service programs at the Peacemaker Family Center in Miami, Florida. The most challenging program that I have helped develop is the Children of Inmates (COI). Seven years ago, I was privileged to be one of five, founding executive directors who initiated the COI concept. We wanted to find a way to begin serving the more than 15,000 children in Miami-Dade County, Florida who have incarcerated parents. The prospect of engaging and serving these children seemed daunting, but we were determined. To date, we have touched the lives of more than 2,500 children with an incarcerated parent. One of the services we provide is the quarterly Bonding Visit. The goal of a Bonding Visit is to increase positive attachment and bonding experiences for the children and their incarcerated parent, where appropriate. In the last seven years, we have taken 800 children (representing 500 families) and their caregivers on 250 Bonding Visits to correctional facilities across the State of Florida including Broward, Dade, Homestead, Lowell, Marion, Okeechobee, Everglades, Harvey, and Martin.
Last year, COI became an affiliate member of Children of Prisoners–Europe and last week, I traveled with Shellie Solomon and Sam Ludington of COI to make a presentation at the Children of Prisoners–Europe’s Annual Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland at the of Royal Botanic Garden. In addition to making our presentation, we heard presentations from programs that serve children with incarcerated parents in Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England, and France. At the end of the first days’ sessions, we had time to walk around the beautiful streets of Edinbugh,
drink cappuccino’s (can you see the dragon?),
and discuss the new ideas we were learning.
We finished the evening with an official conference dinner in Great Room of the Edinburgh Castle hosted by the Scottish Government!
I never imagined that seven years ago, we would have provided services to so many children with incarcerated parents and be sharing our COI concept with like-minded organizations from Europe.
Do have a new idea that you need to take a step of faith to begin?