February 14, 2007
Reports show that over seven million children have a parent behind bars, on probation or parole.
It wasn’t too long ago that Hana Alomar was a student at Virginia Commonwealth University.
She fell in love and then got married.
“About two years into the marriage he got extremely abusive, for whatever reasons, I stayed,” said Alomar.
Choosing to stay with the father of her six children would soon prove to be a decision that would forever change Hana's life.
“One morning in January of 2003 he pulled a gun on me, there was a bit of a struggle, then gun ended up in my hands and I shot him and he passed,” said Alomar.
Since arriving at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Hana has graduated from the Moms Incarcerated parenting class and now is a proud member of M.I.L.K.: Mothers Inside Loving Kids.
“With the grant funding, were able to develop a specific program called "parenting in prison" and it consists of modules that are very specific to the skills needed to parent from inside prison with limited contact with your children,” said Sara Dansey, Program Manager with the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program.
Alomar said, “The M.I.L.K. program for me is the most important thing for me to be involved in while I’m here. It’s really good because its also an incentive to make sure I’m doing the right thing when I’m in here.”
Through M.I.L.K., Alomar gets six all-day visits a year with her children, something that not everyone at Fluvanna can say they have.
“If I have to be here than I have to be in M.I.L.K. That's how I look at it,” said Alomar.
“It’s really the important that the moms have both a support group and somebody meaning each other, pushing them to do their best, to be a role model for their children and to be concerned about meeting what they say "their commitment, promises and goals", which is something a lot of them haven’t done before, and this is a step in the right direction,” said Sharon Dunn, the M.I.L.K. program coordinator for Fluvanna.
Dansey said, “It really changes the roles and gives a much healthier relationship for the family, and really bonds the family in a healthy way and helps hopefully to break the cycle of incarceration.”
Children with incarcerated parents have a higher chance of being incarcerated themselves, a statistic that Alomar hopes to stop with herself.
“My children have met other M.I.L.K. moms and other children who have parents that are incarcerated. I think it helps my kids to realize that they don't feel so awkward about it. They are not the only children out there that are going through not having a mom that's around,” said Alomar.
She also says the best part about being involved with M.I.L.K. is the activities she gets to do with her children on their visits, simple games that have a huge meaning.
“To be able to do some of those things with my children, see what they've learned. Maybe help them learn something new and just keeps that bond going is just wonderful,” said Alomar.
The M.I.L.K. program has been around for twenty five years.
It's run in collaboration with the Girl Scouts of the Virginia Skyline Council's ‘Beyond Bars’ program.
The program also enjoys help from the University of Virginia graduate school of Clinical Psychology.