There are an estimated 6,800 children in the state of Oklahoma with incarcerated mothers, with about 4,441 of these children under the age of 18, according to a study conducted by Dr. Susan F. Sharp, L. J. Semrod Presidential Professor in the Department of Sociology and professor of women’s studies, University of Oklahoma. About 45.5 percent of minor children lived with the female offender prior to her incarceration. Many children are seriously affected by the sudden and ambiguous loss of a parent. Children of incarcerated parents can experience significant problems such as trouble in school (dropping out or being expelled), trouble with friends/caregivers, running away, drug use, mental health problems and depression. They are also at greater risk of becoming incarcerated themselves.
GKFF has partnered with several organizations to expand services to children of incarcerated parents. One such partner is Project M.E.N.D. (Mothers Encouraging and Nurturing their Daughters), a program of the Girls Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma. Project M.E.N.D. provides drug and alcohol prevention, conflict resolution and other valuable life skills to incarcerated mothers and their children. The program encourages positive relationships and conducts routine site visits to allow children to visit their mothers in order to maintain a family bond in spite of the separation caused by incarceration.