HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY CHANCES OF REUNITING WITH MY CHILDREN AFTER I AM RELEASED FROM PRISON?
Remember that every case will have different conditions that must be met and that all decisions regarding reunification with your children will depend upon what is in the best interest of the child.
With that in mind, there are ways that you can strengthen your ability to have your relationship be part of what is best for your child.
MAKE SURE THAT YOU STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR CHILD.
It may not be easy to do, but one of the most important aspects of strengthening the possibility of family reunification is to stay connected with your child/children while you are incarcerated.
- Encourage the kinship care provider or foster parent to bring the child to visitations. Sometimes this is a financial burden or impossible because of transportation. Ask them to find organizations that will provide transportation.
- Be positive about your child’s foster care parent or kinship care provider. This is a stressful time for children, and your negative feelings about who is caring for them will only add to their confusion. The more positive you are with the providers of care, the more likely they are to go the extra mile for you in terms of helping you stay connected.
- Make sure you seek out and participate in any programs offered in the prison that will help you stay connected – family days, reading together days. Many institutions are working with other organizations to provide these opportunities to stay connected with your children.
- Call your children as often as is possible. Keep up on what is going on in their lives. Show an interest in their interests and learn as much as you can about their interests – even if they are not yours – so that you can take part in the conversation rather than just asking questions.
- Write to them regularly, even if you are receiving visits. Everyone loves to get mail. Start a story or picture that you can both add to and send back and forth.
- Be honest with them about your past mistakes and let them know that you are doing everything you can to be back in their lives in a positive way.
- Try to be a part of any school conferences, if possible, by phone or by letter writing to the teachers. Show a genuine interest in their education.
- Celebrate achievements and milestones in your child’s life. Read about child development and understand what they are going through in their own personal growth. Celebrate birthdays and special events – even if you can’t be there in person.
KNOW YOUR PLAN WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES PROFESSIONALS AND WORK THE PLAN TO THE LETTER.
You may have a written plan with the Department of Social Services. Make sure you have a copy of it and are doing everything in your power to work it. That may require self-advocacy on your part to work with prison officials to have assistance on what you need to do.
- Seek out and participate in any programs that will improve parenting skills
- Complete any required drug or anger management programs.
- Keep records of everything. It’s up to you to be able to prove that you have done what is on your plan.
- Keep records of visits, phone calls, and activities that you do with your child. This will be proof of your continued connection to your child.
- Be positive. Think about the changes that need to be made and make them a part of your daily routine.
Incarceration can be a time to stop, rethink your life, and make the personal changes to be a better parent. Make it your full time study. Begin to see yourself, and carry yourself, as the parent you want to be.