Everything I learned about servant leadership I learned from serving children who have incarcerated parents. 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 and one that is also close to my heart is the Children of Inmates (COI). Six 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. In addition to case management, video visitation, and support groups, we provide the opportunity for quarterly Bonding Visits. 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 six years, we have taken 1,500 children and their caregivers, representing 500 families, on 250 Bonding Visits to thirteen (13) correctional facilities across the State of Florida including Broward, Charlotte, Dade, Homestead, Lowell, Marion, Okeechobee, Everglades, Harvey, and Martin. This fall, we will be expanding COI to include children who live in the Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida regions with funding from the State of Florida. We are excited about this new opportunity!
Working with the children, their caregivers, and their incarcerated parents has helped me to learn four principles about being a servant leader. I have learned that:
A servant leader goes first.
A servant leader has thick skin and a tender heart.
A servant leader gives, expecting nothing in return.
A servant leader remains undaunted.
Is there a need in your community that needs your assistance as a servant leader?
“This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love; the more they give, the more they possess.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke