Thursday, April 19, 2007

Religious youth ministries should reach out to kids with incarcerated parents

I thought this artwork was an interesting choice for a religious Texas youth camp:
The event isn't aimed at kids of incarcerated parents and really doesn't have anything to do with prison as far as I can tell (see their promo video on YouTube), but it got me thinking. I went to church camp as a kid, and for the most part remember the experiences fondly. A quick tour around the web shows quite a few churches sponsor them still, typically with parents paying $160 - $185 for a week of peace and quiet while their kids are gone out in the woods.

I wonder if many churches offer scholarships to such events for children of incarcerated parents? It seems like it'd be a good idea, both to reach out to kids who may not get such opportunities and also as a first step toward integrating youth ministries with prison ministries. I get the impression that a lot more churches focus on ministering to the ex-offender once they're out than they do their families while they're in - IMO both are important.

UPDATE: Longtime prison rights activist Joan Burnham lets us know in the comments:
There is a camp program that is specifically for children of incarcerated parents, sponsored by the Episcopal Dicoese of Texas, called Camp Good News at Camp Allen, Navasota, TX. (July 29-August 3,ages 10-15). It is an outstanding program and has been operating for several years. There is no charge to families. I worked with the program while the ED of TIFA and continue to do so in my current role (chair) of the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable. Check out the TIFA website (www.tifa.org) for more info/application form and/or Dr.Ed Davi, Camp Coordinator at (936) 291-3153.

5 comments:

David said...

Scott, that's a great idea.. I'll work on it. Several roadblocks immediately come to mind - the prison system is incredibly frustrating to work in. Just getting in to visit a guy that no one has seen in 30 years is hard. I imagine that it would have to be some type of non-system registry. And then there is the problem of getting churches to put their youth on the front line. Yeah, I know, sounds funny but it is oh so true. Anyway, thanks for the idea.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, David! A non-system registry is definitely what I had in mind - TIFA could help, I bet, or many local newspapers and radio stations would probably do PSAs. I bet it wouldn't be hard to fill up scholarship slots.

As for putting "youth on the front line," I'd say on the one hand it's the parents who committed a crime, but on the other it's reasonable to expect some such kids to have special needs or potential trouble fitting in with unfamiliar kids and to require extra attention. I don't deny that could be an issue to plan ahead for, though not a huge one. They're still kids - take 'em to camp and most would just enjoy themselves like everybody else.

That said, I would remind any fearful parents of two things Christ said: "Even as you have done unto the least of these, you have done it unto me," and "suffer the little children to come unto me." Then ask them WWJD? best,

JT Barrie said...

Yep. Prisons are a lush recruiting haven for Islamic fundamentalism and all sorts of Christian feel good religions. Dogmas of self-justification are easy substitutes for the designer [designed by criminals to be more addictive and profitable than they were when they were legal] drugs on the street.

Joan said...

Scott, there is a camp program that is specifically for children of incarcerated parents, sponsored by the Episcopal Dicoese of Texas, called Camp Good News at Camp Allen, Navasota, TX. (July 29-August 3,ages 10-15). It is an outstanding program and has been operating for several years. There is no charge to families. I worked with the program while the ED of TIFA and continue to do so in my current role (chair) of the Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable. Check out the TIFA website (www.tifa.org) for more info/application form and/or Dr.Ed Davi, Camp Coordinator at (936) 291-3153. We work to get the word out to churches and other organizations. Joan Burnham

Ed Davis said...

Scott: The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has been running a camp for children of the incarcerated for six years at Camp Allen near Navasota Texas. The dates are July 29-August 3. The Episcopal Diocese of North West Texas has camp for these at-risk children in June of each year near Amarillo. Both camps are free. For more info Contact Dr. Ed Davis at edsalpc@yahoo.com or Rev Roland Rose at dnrose@suddenlink.net.