One of the less obvious statistics about crime and incarceration is also one of the most significant.
Nationwide, there are 2.7 million children with at least one parent behind bars. These kids are forced to deal with feelings of abandonment, shame, guilt, and loneliness, and face not having their mom or dad present for the landmark moments of their young lives. All too often, children of incarcerated parents end up following the path their mom or dad walked before them.
Casey Anderson is one of those 2.7 million. And while she was able to overcome many of the hurdles placed before her, recently graduating from a prestigious university, she still struggles with not having her mom with her for much of her life.
“My mother has been incarcerated, on and off, for nearly a decade now,” Anderson writes for the Huffington Post. “She was around for my formative years, but by no means was it the type of development and learning that I wanted.”
Anderson describes her childhood as a traumatic time, full of fighting between her parents. She remembers asking herself questions: Why does my mother need to drink? Does she love me enough to quit? Will the ongoing trauma in her family ever end?
“My mother missed every single softball game I ever played, both junior and senior prom, my first kiss, my first love and my first heartbreak,” Anderson says. “She missed all of my college improve comedy shows, my college graduation, every birthday from ages 8 to 22 and my development into the young woman I am today. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated her birthday with her (or at all), the last time I hugged her or what her voice sounds like on the phone or in person.”
Despite not having her mother present for these significant events, Anderson says she will not be defined by it. She has turned her story into a passion for criminal justice, and now volunteers with Prison Fellowship’s Warden Exchange program. Anderson hopes her story will serve as encouragement to the other 2.7 million who have a mom or dad behind bars. “I, along with the other 2.7 million, am much more than the incarceration of my parent,” she asserts.
Prison Fellowship seeks to restore and transform families torn apart by crime and incarceration. Angel Tree works to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the families of prisoners. Through Angel Tree, the children of prisoners are reminded of the love their mom or dad have for them, and their parents are given a chance to reconnect. To learn more about Angel Tree, and how you can get your church or group involved in serving families in your communities, visit www.angeltree.org.