Sunday, November 7, 2010


More kids probably visit Dad than Mom, though many divorces result in joint custody with kids staying with both parents about equally. Some kids visit Mom in institutions for the mentally ill; some visit them in  rehab, hospice, or the hospital.

The worst place to visit mom, though, is jail. Girl Scouts of America has a wonderful program for girls whose moms are incarcerated. The girls are transported (often by bus or van) from their door to the prison where they are re-united once a month with Mom in a neutral setting like the prison gym. Then they have lunch or a snack with Mom who must have "good behavior" for the past month in order to share this experience with their daughter. If the child arrives and Mom hasn't earned this privilege, the other mothers and girls try to make up for this loss of visitation.

This is one way many moms who may have had drug, personality problems, or mental illness can learn how to parent more appropriately. Most important for them, however is to establish or re-establish a more normal level of trust with their daughter. It is an incredibly good program and Boy Scouts of America is starting a similar one.

Now for the sad part. Many of these moms DID have a good relationship with their kids before incarceration. Many were NOT drug abusers or criminals. But many lived with an abusive man.

And the fallout from his emotional and physical battering is often:
*The worsening of existing mental illness when the abuser refuses to allow his victim to take prescribed medicine.
*Drug or alcohol abuse when a woman tries to allieviate her anxiety and/or depression.
*Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (woman and kids) caused by constant violence, frustration, and pain in their lives as well as extreme anxiety from not knowing when the next shoe will drop.

What is most appalling is that some of these women are sent to prison for using a weapon (usually a knife) in self-defense, or for drug trafficking (often forced on them by their abuser). When a women is incarcerated, her family and extended family are severely affected.

Her children usually end up in a foster or relative home, often grandparents, who may have inadequate income, space, and strength for raising the next generation. If they become ill or impoverished as a result, it means further loss and disruption for the kids.

Unfortunately, the abusers of these women may not go to jail because it is hard to prove emotional abuse, threatening and intimidation. The abuser's fists may not be as criminally efficient as a gun or knife and in the absence of visible bruises or scars, it could end up as "one word against the other."

Life isn't fair, but I think this is about as unfair as it gets.

No comments: