Local organization fosters healthy connections between incarcerated parents and their children

CHARLOTTE — Getting out of jail can be a hard transition, especially for parents who haven’t seen their kids in years. However, there is a program in Mecklenburg County that is hoping to help shift the course of those past mistakes.

Ciara Miller said Sunday family visits inside the Mecklenburg County Jail may be far from the comfort of their home but it is just as valuable.

“It means the world to me because he’s been wanting to meet his grandson,” Miller told Channel 9. “It’s his first one and we haven’t visited with my dad in almost 4 or 5 years.”

Miller was visiting her father, who has been in jail for the last five years, as he completed new parenting classes created by the non-profit Life Connections.

“I’m 34 and my siblings are 16 and 17, so it’s a big age gap. But it’s important for them to connect while he’s incarcerated,” Miller explained.

The curriculum focuses on strengthening disconnected families through topics such as how to navigate having a family member, particularly a parent, that is incarcerated.

“Parenting is not easy. So with this class, it allows parents and their children to kinda interact and go thru a curriculum and learn how to communicate with each other,” Miller said.

Chablis Dandridge, the programs director, said he used how own personal experiences to help guide jail residents and their families through the class’s ten lessons.

“I served 13 years in federal prison. At the time, my kids were 8 and 10 years old when I left. I can remember the days. Leaving the prison, visiting the room, having to say goodbye for 30 days or 45 days, and what it was like to see my kids standing on the other side crying,” Dandridge told Channel 9.

Dandridge said this is why the curriculum focuses on how to communicate, be responsible, and follow the rules.

“Having components that mitigate some of that. That brings the family together. And also provide common language that we can work around, even when we are in our feelings about different things,” Dandridge explained.

Although the classes just launched in February, Dandridge said he is already seeing how much it can help break cycles.

“You still have meaning and you still have something that you have to do. You don’t get away from your obligation as a parent just because you’re in time out for a little bit. They get an opportunity to go say good night and say do good in school tomorrow. And I love you. And the children get to say that back, it just means everything,” Dandridge said.

For more information about the programs offered by Life Connections, click here.

VIDEO: ‘They have a chance’: Center finds jobs, restores hope for formerly incarcerated

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

Comments on this article