Three times a week, like clockwork, 15 female inmates file into the library at the David L. Moss Correction Center. As the women take their seats, conversation turns to their children. Although many of the mothers have not seen or held their kids for months, they say their children are always on their minds.
The mothers have voluntarily signed up to actively participate in a pilot program funded through a grant from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. The goal of the program is to teach female inmates how to become a better parents. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant Stacie Holloway, who worked diligently to bring Family & Children’s Services evidence-based curriculum to the jail, said, “When you become a parent there is no guidebook. A lot of the people who end up here have no example themselves. That’s what we count on to teach us to be good parents- that example that our parents set. When they didn’t have it in their own lives, providing this for them gives them the tools to better take care of things outside in the real world.”
Family & Children’s Services Licensed Parent Educator Lauren Alvarez-Gould uses evidence-based curriculum to teach the mothers how to best utilize the “tools” at their disposal. The classes, which are recognized by the court system, span eight weeks and focus on relationship-building skills, blended families and problem solving, among other things.
A staunch supporter of the curriculum, Holloday hopes to soon add two more classes. Since the classes began in September, attendance has quadrupled. “We can only have 15 people in a class and we are full with a 20 person waiting list,” she said.
Holloday and Alvarez-Gould hope the success of the parenting class paves the way for contact visitation with the mothers and their children. In the meantime Holloday records each mother reading a story to her child. Then, she mails the book and recording to the family. “We’re working to keep the connection while the mothers work to improve themselves.”