MBB imageMaria may never see her children again. They were born in America but she was not. When released from the sentence she is serving in a California State Prison she, according to speculation by folk knowledgeable with these situations, will be deported to her home country.

Celebrating Mother’s Day is pretty much a no-no for her as it is for most of the inmate mothers I spend Saturdays with, presenting successful child-raising practices and understanding that though the women were charged with a crime, the crime most times has nothing to do with their relationship with their children.

Belinda spent two years living in a car with her two young children. Changing diapers in the back seat, measuring out breakfast cereal into plastic bowls that she continually washed and kept put away in a special box labeled “kitchen stuff.”

Shanika hasn’t seen her kids since she was transferred to a prison in Southern California. But when in prison in Northern CA, near her hometown, the kids came to visit with their grandmother on a regular basis.

                Ah, did somebody say Happy Mother’s Day?

Well, often in the parenting classes I provide at a California State prison, many of the mothers aren’t sure if they can still be called “Mom.”

“I think my kids got adopted, but I’m not sure,” Is a familiar discussion point.

“My kids were adopted and I want to know how to locate them,” is a regular heartbreaking question.

Adoption is final and neither the inmate mom or anyone else gets the opportunity to track the kid’s whereabouts.

For the mothers who aren’t sure, someone labeled attorney or someone bearing the title social worker, neglected to keep the Ms Moms advised of their parental rights, of court procedures and of all matters that would have kept them abreast of their status.

Then there are the inmates in silent battle with relatives the court has appointed to care for their children while they are incarcerated. All too often, distant cousins, aunts or grandparents are low-income and in need of the money paid to caregivers.

All for the dollar, it becomes advantageous for caregivers to turn children against a mother who is behind bars and work for their own financial circumstances to keep the children even after Mom’s release.

Women make up the fastest-growing prison population in America. The 215,000 behind the walls constitute 1/3 of all female prisoners in the world. According to reports, 65% of incarcerated women are mothers.

Would anyone dare to suggest a Happy Mother’s Day for America’s 65%?

And what about their children? Oh, maybe some of them will send a card. Maybe some will go to visit. Maybe too many children have forgotten who she is.

Mothers Behind Bars (MBB) is a Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith Prison Project. Visit our e and learn about the  project http://talkaboutparenting.org/mothers-behind-bars/

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Greta Pruitt

    You have incredible skill at translating for the freedom loving mothers in the world what it must be like for those who are incarcerated! Thank you for sharing this heartfelt insight.

  2. Jean Troy

    I think one of the saddest things is how our social and political groups always make women the victim. No abortions they cry, have the child raise it, but we will not support you we will not subsidise your rent or food, and if you are homeless it is your fault. If you can’t find a job or a baysitter again thats your resposibility. When the Mother is sent to jail again she is the sinner and must pay for her crimes, by being mistreated emotionally no word as where are who is caring for her children; deported without the knowledge of where her children are if they are safe and cared for. This will continue to happen until we women stop pointing fingers at one another and looking to cast the first stone and learn to help each other. There are women legislators out there who can write bills to fund more money to increase personnel in our County welfare offices so there is someone available to answer and process questions regarding the care and welfare of these children. We just need the political will

  3. -Nate

    This is a sad state of affairs for the Children and Mothers both ~ just because they make a mistake or get caught in life’s switches doesn’t mean Mothers are not important to their Children or that they should be discarded like trash .


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