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Program Helps Children of Incarcerated Parents

Houston KPRC (NBC) 2
August 20, 2007, 5:00 p.m.

HOUSTON -- Their choices in life landed them behind bars, but these parents' actions not only affected them, but their children. A program is helping the sons and daughters of incarcerated parents by working with both generations, KPRC Local 2, Your Education Station, reported Friday.

Through the program sponsored by Teeter Totter Village, some inmates at Henley State Jail are starting to take back their lives.

"Everyone makes mistakes. But you don't have to live in that mistake and let that mistake be who you are," inmate Derrilyn Deshotel said.

The first step is rebuilding their devastated families. That's where Supporting Kids Of Incarcerated Parents, also known as SKIP, comes in.

For 21 weeks, mothers participate in parenting skills classes.

Every Thursday, they have the chance to meet with their children and participate in learning activities.

"If you can't get algebra, for two hours we can sit here and go through some algebraic equations. If you're having problems with science, bring it to the table. We can sit here and talk about it," Deshotel said.

The executive director of Teeter Totter Village said children of incarcerated parents often act out, and are plagued with feelings of shame, guilt and loneliness.

"I felt like I didn't have anybody I could turn toward," son Demarcus Deshotel said.

But, through counseling and support groups, teachers and caregivers said there is potential for dramatic progress.

"They've seen a change in the children's behavior as well as soon of their grades. They're able to focus more," said Claudette Edwards, with Teeter Totter Village.

"It helps my children know that momma is still here and that I'm still active in their lives, and I still love them," said Genny Dixon, an incarcerated parent.

The program also caters to the caretakers, which are often grandparents who are thrust back into caring for young children.

But overall, the mission is simple.

"Take a negative and really turn it into a positive," Dixon said.

Teeter Totter Village is located at 9133 Scott Street. For more information, call (713) 734-7989.