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Amber Childres

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Unites Daughters with Incarcerated Moms

HOUSTON, Texas (May 2009) – An estimated 1.7 million children in America under the age of 18 have a parent in prison, according to a report by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. The trauma associated with having an incarcerated parent can lead to poor academic performance, depression, aggression and a greater likelihood of ending up in prison themselves.

That is why Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is working to unite daughters with their incarcerated mothers through a community outreach program called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. Instituted in 1992 through a partnership with the National Institute of Justice, the program provides girls an opportunity to visit their mothers on a weekly to monthly basis and take part in mother/daughter Girl Scout troop meetings. In addition, girls and their mothers often have facilitated discussions about family life, violence and drug abuse prevention.

“Girl Scouts Beyond Bars allows daughters to have the freedom to communicate with their mothers about anything that is going on in their lives,” says Wendy Rea, a Girl Scouts community outreach manager who oversees the program for the San Jacinto Council. “It is also an opportunity for girls to connect with other girls that are going through some of the issues that they are going through in life. The mothers use the time to encourage their daughters to made good choices in their lives. Both daughters and mothers learn to work together to accomplish goals and complete craft activities.”

Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program is designed to help incarcerated mothers foster healthy, lasting relationships with their daughters and to prevent daughters from following in their mother's footsteps. The girls meet two Saturdays a month for troop meetings at the Lucile Plane State Jail in Dayton, Texas. Just like other Girl Scouts, the girls work on badges and plan and conduct activities.

The goals are to strengthen the mother–daughter relationship; reduce the stress of separation for both; foster the development of self-esteem, personal growth and leadership skills among the girls; and reduce the likelihood of reunification problems following the mothers’ release.

“The program is an incentive for the mothers to remain on good behavior during their time at the jail,” Rea says. “The mothers have a chance to be real role models for their daughters. During the program they become true leaders amongst the group.”

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.7 million girls and adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving more than 65,000 girl members and 17,000 adults in 26 southeast Texas counties. For more information call 1-800-392-4340 or visit