Ten million children in the United States have had a mother or father in prison at some point in their lives, according to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report. These children are eight times more likely to be incarcerated themselves one day. Normally, a high school like M.B. Smiley in Houston, where approximately 40 percent of the students have parents who are or have been incarcerated, would be in serious trouble, but a new program has been working to relieve the extra burden these teens face and keep them out of prison.
No More Victims, established in 1993 by a former parole officer, acknowledges the trauma experienced by many school children with parents in prison, providing support in an effort to stop the cycle that lands generation after generation behind bars.
Each class begins with an open session in which students can share worries or news about their parent. The class is heavy on role playing to help students learn to communicate effectively and deal with an impending meeting with their father or mother. The teachers invite speakers to class who have broken out of the cycle: rappers, professional athletes and business owners, among others. No More Victims also provides food, clothing, and school supplies, as well as weekly support sessions with parents and guardians.
Attending No More Victims classes is voluntary, and at first many children were reluctant to show up and admit that one or more of their parents was in prison. However, the supportive atmosphere has won over many students; in fact, almost 10 percent of the school attends the class on a semi-regular basis. Since the program’s inception, teachers have noted positive changes in students, particularly in improved attendance.
No More Victims is funded by grants from the Hogg Foundation and the Houston Endowment and operates with five full-time staff members. In addition to reaching students, No More Victims has a reciprocal program in correctional facilities to help mothers and fathers understand how their choices and behavior impact their children.
Categories:Teachers and School Leaders