||Programs working in collaboration with GO KIDS initiative listed on TDCJ website
By Christina Melton Crain, TBCJ Chairman
|Christina Melton Crain
In the January/February edition of the Connections newsletter, you were introduced to the GO KIDS (Giving Offenders’ Kids Incentive and Direction to Succeed) initiative. With children of offenders being seven times more likely than their peers to become involved in the criminal justice system, GO KIDS was established to provide invaluable information for accessing programs and services across Texas, as well as throughout the United States.
Available through the TDCJ website, GO KIDS resource lists identify programs and services offered to probationers, offenders and parolees, as well as their families. A particular interest, of course, has been placed on identifying resources offered for the children of offenders. The targeted programs and services address basic fundamental elements, such as mentoring, home-based interventions, parenting training, as well as social and mental health services.
The GO KIDS website also provides direct links to other websites for programs working in collaboration with the initiative. These programs are working side-by-side with TDCJ toward the goal of helping offender children. They are not, however, directly connected by working in a unit/facility or with offenders. At the time of publication, these programs included Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, Amachi, No More Victims, Inc, and KICKSTART.
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of North Texas provides children with support, guidance, friendship and fun by matching them to adult role models. Studies have shown that having a mentor significantly reduces a young person’s initiation of drug and alcohol use, improves their school performance and attendance, reduces incidences of violence, and improves their relationship with their custodial parents. The collaborative relationship between BBBS of North Texas and TDCJ began in 2004 when the organization approached the agency about working with it on the Amachi program.
Amachi: People of Faith Mentoring Children of Promise assists children and youth who have parents currently or formerly incarcerated. Through engaging these children in mentoring relationships with people of faith, the Amachi program is designed to address the specific needs of these children and alter the potential inter-generational cycle of incarceration. In Texas, mentoring through the Amachi program is currently only available in counties services by BBBS of North Texas, which includes Collin, Dallas, Denton, Grayson and Tarrant. Plans are underway, however, to expand this collaborative effort to other BBBS organizations throughout Texas.
Currently servicing the Houston area, No More Victims, Inc. (NMVI) utilizes very creative and innovative programming to specifically target the prevention of violent, abusive and victimizing behavior. Placing a special focus on the parent-child relationship, NMVI offers education, emotional support and empowerment to children and adults. It also addresses addictions and victimization, inclusive of prostitution, incarceration and reintegration, along with many other variables involved in the healing process.
KICKSTART targets children 12 to 14 years of age, particularly on school campuses in high-risk areas. It is a character-building, life-skills program with a fundamental purpose to give children the tools to strengthen their self-image. Servicing more than 34 schools in the Houston and Dallas area, KICKSTART changes and saves children’s lives by using martial arts training to instill values and skills that will enable them to resolve conflict, avoid participating in gangs, choose drug-free lifestyles, as well as set and achieve goals to include remaining in high school until they graduate.
At this point, you may be asking, how does TDCJ collaborate with these programs which are operating outside the agency? TDCJ ensures that information on the programs, as well as their benefits, are circulated to the offender as well as his or her families and children. Then, if interested, TDCJ helps the offender and his or her family make contact and arrangements for the program.
When we began this initiative, it was amazing to discover the number of programs and services that were actually being facilitated within the agency, as well as the services available in communities across the state. By establishing GO KIDS as a resource tool, thereby linking these individuals with the programs and services they so desperately need, we will make a difference in the future of a family, most importantly their children, as well as the future of the criminal justice system in Texas.
If you would like more information about GO KIDS, want to find out how you can help, or know of programs and services that should be included on the GO KIDS resource lists, please contact Wanda Redding, the TDCJ GO KIDS coordinator, at 936-437-6407. Help us make the difference in the life of a child!