Frequently Asked Questions:
- What does Foreverfamily do?
- Why does Foreverfamily focus on children of incarcerated parents?
- How did you get started?
- Why did AIM become Foreverfamily?
- Will Foreverfamily still do everything AIM used to?
- What programs do you offer for children and their imprisoned parents?
- What about the caregivers?
- How can I volunteer with Foreverfamily?
- Do you advocate on behalf of these families?
- Are there plans to expand your programs beyond Atlanta?
- Do you have any assistance for Spanish speakers?
- What kind of impact have you made?
What does Foreverfamily do?
Foreverfamily works to ensure that, no matter what the circumstances, all children have the opportunity to be surrounded by the love of family. We focus our efforts on some of the most marginalized children in our society—those with an incarcerated parent or parents—and support them as they, their parents, caregivers and extended families work to remain a family. back to top
Why does Foreverfamily focus on children of incarcerated parents?
Nearly 2.5 million American kids have a mother or father in prison right now. Study after study shows that children with an imprisoned parent face severe developmental challenges that, if not addressed, can lead to lifelong issues, ranging from difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships to an increased likelihood of being incarcerated themselves.
The US prison population continues to increase almost 6% every year, and researchers estimate the societal economic toll of a high-risk youth resorting to a life of crime at $1.7 million to $2.3 million. Yet this number cannot encompass the initial cost that begins the cycle of poverty and crime, borne by these youth themselves: the loss of familial bonds.
Despite these staggering numbers and the undeniable effects of parental incarceration on communities, those most affected—the children—have remained largely invisible and voiceless. We at Foreverfamily work to give the children a supportive environment where they can develop that voice. back to top
How did you get started?
We began in 1987 when our National President, Sandra Barnhill, left her job as a public interest lawyer after becoming frustrated by the lack of support given to mothers sentenced to prison, not to mention the children and families left behind. The organization she founded to address this need was originally known as Aid to Imprisoned Mothers, or AIM. back to top
Why did AIM become Foreverfamily?
As we evolved to meet the needs of children with incarcerated parents, we further expanded our programming to include families of imprisoned fathers as well as mothers. Moreover, we have always strived to care for the whole family. After losing a parent to incarceration, our children often depend on their extended family and other caregivers. Our charge is to help them all, and our old name wasn’t capturing that.
Most importantly, our kids were telling us the old name was causing them discomfort and even embarrassment at times. That, coupled with the idea that “AIM” could be taken as an allusion to gun violence, told us it was time to take another look at our name. back to top
Will Foreverfamily still do everything AIM used to?
Yes, we will continue to provide all of the services that existed under AIM. As well, we will continue to expand our programs and our reach to assist even more families. back to top
What programs do you offer for children and their imprisoned parents?
In the Atlanta area, we bring child and parent together through family visitation to prisons. This, one of our core programs, is a seemingly simple idea but nonetheless requires a great deal of planning and resources. On an ongoing basis, we provide academic tutoring, Saturday programs, emergency assistance and referral services—all focused on the needs of children of incarcerated parents. We established an after-school program to help the children cope through their interaction with peers who are in similar situations. We created the teen leadership program, an empowering forum for teens to further develop their skills and help their younger “brothers” and “sisters” in our Foreverfamily. Each summer, our week-long camp serves 60 children.
We help parents in our Foreverfamily stay informed and in touch with their families through our publications and Prisoner Correspondence Project. We also support their efforts to raise their children through parenting education workshops, parent-staff conferences to provide updates on their children’s progress, and post-release support services to help them readjust to society. back to top
What about the caregivers?
Those charged with providing care for the children during the parent’s incarceration are overworked and undervalued, and they face many concerns. We organize the Guardian Angels Support Group, where caregivers can share their concerns and interests as well as get help with parenting. We also provide support to caregivers through referrals for resources and arrange an annual luncheon in their honor. back to top
How can I volunteer with Foreverfamily?
To become a volunteer, complete the online application, and watch the volunteer videos which can be found on the volunteer page of our website. Once your online application is forwarded to us a staff member will contact you. You will need to have an in-person interview and clear the background check. Foreverfamily depends on volunteers. They power everything we do, from preparing meals for our after-school programs to working one-on-one with our youth. We make sure our volunteers know we value their input, and we make a point of acknowledging their service at every opportunity. Above all, we provide training and enrichment programs for our volunteers to ensure that they have as much an opportunity to grow as our children. To find out more, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 223-1200. back to top
Do you advocate on behalf of these families?
In addition to providing direct services, we also advocate for the interests of imprisoned parents and their children. Because of our efforts, all Georgia Department of Corrections facilities for women have created children’s centers where mothers can touch, hold and read to their children during visits. back to top
Are there plans to expand your programs beyond Atlanta?
Based on our success and national reputation in providing targeted services to this special population, foundations like the Annie E. Casey Foundation—along with a number of churches, faith-based organizations, local nonprofits and community residents—have committed to helping Foreverfamily share our programming model with other cities across the nation.
Within our home state of Georgia, we are also provided information to communities who wanted to address the needs of children with an incarcerated parent in the following cities: Bainbridge, Augusta, Savannah, and Albany (which has the next-largest concentration of families with incarcerated parents in Georgia after Atlanta). back to top
Do you have any assistance for Spanish speakers?
Foreverfamily’s Program Director is bilingual and will work directly with Spanish speaking families and assist them as they work with our Family Advocate. Additionally, our children and their families have access to a toll-free, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week bilingual hotline through United Way’s 211to help them locate emergency services in the Atlanta area. back to top
What kind of impact have you made?
Reports of improved behavior and GPA as well as increased numbers of students being promoted from grade to grade, on honor roll, engaged in career planning and taking leadership positions—these are all testaments to the critical positive difference Foreverfamily is making. Yet the one we find most meaningful is that, while children of imprisoned parents are believed to be more likely to end up in prison themselves, 97% of our Foreverfamily children do not.
How are we able to achieve this remarkable result? Simple. We surround all our children with the love of family. back to top