In the United States today, there are a large number of children who have a parent incarcerated for at least a portion of their childhood. This is a major problem in society.
Being a good parent & role model while incarcerated can be a challenge. You miss out on so much of your child’s daily life. You miss birthdays, holidays, and other special events. Even worse is the fact that your child misses out on not having you there for them to be able to truly enjoy the moment or deal with the tough times.
Personally, I know that I’ve miss so much that I don’t know if I can ever make up for it. Luckily in the nearly 14 years I’ve been incarcerated, I have done everything I possibly can to keep a strong bond with my children. My kids and I already had a great relationship before prison. That is critical for a parent/child relationship to survive, but the parent must do everything possible to let the child know that no matter what they are still there for them emotionally.
My kids were 9, 13, almost 15, and my stepson was 21 when I was convicted. A year later we lost my wife (their mother) Melissa to cancer. At that time, phone calls cost almost $8 per 20 minute call so I could not call very often at all and my in-laws wouldn’t bring them to visit. I made a routine of writing letters to my kids and they would write me. I explained that none of what had happened was their fault in any way. I would ALWAYS tell them how much I loved them and that they could talk to me about anything. By doing so they would open up whenever something was bothering them.
After Melissa died, our kids went to live with their aunt and it was difficult on everyone. Before he turned 18, my son Jon moved out on his own. For his 18th birthday, he brought his sister & younger brother to visit with me. Later that year, he gained full custody of his then 17 yr old sister and 13 yr old brother. He raised and supported them for the next 5 years on his own. He is now 28 and still very close with his siblings and myself.
Without him becoming such a strong young man, I don’t know what would have happened to my children. My biggest fear was that they would end up in the foster care system. I am very thankful that never happened, but other kids with incarcerated parents aren’t so fortunate.
Currently phone calls are only 86 cents for a 20 minute call and we have a Jpay prison email system, so communication is a bit easier than it was 10 years ago. Now I talk regularly with my kids once or twice a week by phone and they visit every few months. Even thought they are all adults now I still worry about them. I also have two grandchildren now and I try to stay an active part of their lives.
I know guys in here that have little or no contact with their children and it bothers them, but yet they don’t continue to make much effort to have that relationship.
I guess my point of this blog is just remind people that no matter what your circumstances may be, it’s important to build a solid relationship with your children and to cherish every moment you have with them. If you don’t have a good connection, it’s never to late to start building one, but it’s up to you to keep trying. I hope sharing some of my experiences will help others in some way.
Also, I would like to encourage you to visit http://www.change.org and search my name to view, sign, and share an online clemency petition my daughter Mallory started on my behalf. And if anyone is interested in writing to me, please visit my ad on http://www.writeaprisoner.com or just sign up on jpay.com I am located in Virginia.
Thanks for reading!