At College and Community Fellowship, formerly incarcerated mothers and their children are served together.
It’s probably safe to say that all of us, even those who live in the most marginalized communities, expect social advancement from one generation to the next. We want our children to be more educated, earn more money, increase net worth, contribute more to our society, and have a greater sense of happiness and well-being. Progress toward that end is too often interrupted by criminal conviction and incarceration. At College and Community Fellowship (CCF) our work with criminal justice-involved women reveals that pathways to crime often involve misdirected attempts to build better futures. Whether to escape domestic abuse, put food on the table, or ease the pain of marginalization through self-medication, the increased number of women in our criminal justice systems puts families’ futures at risk.
Since 2004 there has been a national movement to increase opportunity for people convicted of crimes who have returned to the community with renewed hope and a desire to do better. Housing, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence prevention, employment, and education efforts have included services and advocacy for adults and juveniles with criminal convictions as well as efforts directed at the needs of children whose parents are incarcerated. For the past twelve years, CCF has focused on college education for formerly incarcerated women. Now, thanks to the Ascend Fellowship, CCF has the opportunity to view this work through a “2-Gen lens.” We are engaging partners in New York City to envision a model that supports women in reentry to reach for the goal of a college degree and supports the quality education of their children.
That’s the long haul. In the interim, we’ve taken the smaller step of partnering with New York Cares, a volunteer organization that will be on site at CCF program activities to offer children of our clients help with homework and structured play-time while their moms focus on higher education goals. Better futures are created one step at time. CCF is helping women and their children take the first steps.