Strengthening families affected by incarceration

Pamela Rogers didn't imagine spending her 50's changing diapers and running around after a 5-year-old.

The responsibility requires "a lot of patience, a lot of love and a lot of primal scream therapy," said Rogers, the children's grandmother and the one stable figure in their life.

"My son and daughter-in-law were both locked up and so my husband and I got temporary custody," said Rogers.

In Minnesota, more than 10,000 children have a parent who is behind bars. Researchers say those children are likely to struggle in school and experience mental health issues.

"We have the 5-year-old in kindergarten. He's going through some behavioral issues. We have him in therapy," said Rogers. The child has witnessed the arrest of one of his parents, according to his grandmother. "He's got some anger issues," she added.

Cases like this have pushed Governor Mark Dayton to bring attention to children of parents who are incarcerated. Dayton has proclaimed May 8th as "Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Day." The goal is to bring health professionals, social service providers and caretakers like Pamela together to give kids the best support available.

"You need a lot of different people involved," said Steve Nelson, communications manager for Amicus. "Let's bring everybody together and come up with the solutions that make sense to help these 10,000 kids."

Rogers said if incarcerated parents want to take an active and healthy role in the child's life, there ought to be enhanced visitation opportunities.

When Rogers brought the baby to see his mother at a county facility, the child "wasn't allowed to touch her. It was all done like Skype over phone. There wasn't any relationship-building at all."

Children of incarcerated parents must also deal with society's stigma against inmates.

Society, Rogers said, "forgets about the impact that this has on the children, and how it impacts them mentally, emotionally educationally."

The Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Collaborative is planning an informative session today at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center.

Speakers from the Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Public and impacted family members like Rogers will be present to discuss Minnesota's Role in supporting incarcerated parents and their children.

The event begins at 4:00 pm. There will free children's activities and refreshments as well, starting at 5:30 and ending at 8:30 pm.

For more information, click here.


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