The long-running PBS children’s show Sesame Street has added a new character.
On a recent show, Alex, a young boy, reveals to his friends that his father is in prison. “All this talk about my dad and where he is got me really upset,” he tells them, “… [I’m upset] because of where he is … he’s in jail.”
The episode is a part of a larger program being produced called “Little Children, Big Challenges” which deals with the serious issues some children face. The program includes a series of online tool kits for both parents and children dealing with adversity.
While creating a program specifically for children of inmates might appear to be targeted to a very narrow demographic, the reality is that 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison—or one in every 28 kids. It’s an audience that has grown significantly in the last couple of decades, and one that shows no signs of receding.
The impact of having a parent behind bars is significant. In addition to the socioeconomic costs that come from having one of the family’s breadwinners behind bars, there are the emotional and developmental challenges. A recent report indicates that students with an incarcerated parent are more likely to struggle in school, and are also much more likely to follow in their parent’s steps on the way to prison themselves.
Prison Fellowship seeks to encourage the children of inmates through our Angel Tree program. By providing Christmas gifts for kids on behalf of their incarcerated parent, mentoring programs, and through year-round activities such as Angel Tree camping, Prison Fellowship seeks to reconnect broken families, while showing them the Good News of the love and forgiveness available through Jesus Christ.
If you want to find out how you or your church can get involved in making a difference in the lives of children and their families, visit www.angeltree.org.