Through intervention and prevention programming and strategies we assist children whose lives are impacted by parental incarceration.
Milk and Cookies (MAC) Children's Program
Assisting Families of Inmates has specialized in the needs of children with incarcerated parents by offering the Milk and Cookies Children’s Program or, as we affectionately call it, the MAC Program. The MAC Program was active in several City of Richmond Elementary Schools during the period 1999 – 2010. Unfortunately due to funding reasons we were forced to shutter the services of the full program in 2010 but we remain dedicated to this population of children and their caregivers.
Our MAC services included:
- Children's support group guided by an established, evaluated and copyrighted core curriculum
- Information and groups for parents, caregivers, school personnel/administration and service providers on the unique needs of these children
- Assistance to caregivers with resources that can help with financial, housing, transportation, employment and other concerns or family and household stressors
- Support for healthy family reunification and reintegration when the incarcerated parent is released
If you, or someone you know, would benefit from these services, please contact:
Fran Bolin, Executive Director
What is the Milk and Cookies Children's Program?
Having a parent in prison or jail can be a monumental trauma for a child. Struggles to understand a lengthy separation, feelings of abandonment, unanswered questions regarding the whereabouts and safety of their parent and the lack of contact can leave permanent scars on a child. To further complicate matters, these children often carry the shame and stigma projected from a society that lacks understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. Understandably, these children can develop emotional and behavioral problems that lead them down a path of delinquency, and later, adult criminality.
In January, 1999 Assisting Families of Inmates launched a unique school-based program addressing the needs of children impacted by parental incarceration. At that time the Milk and Cookies Children’s Program was located at Blackwell Elementary School, Swansboro Elementary School, and the Sacred Heart Community Center. The program sites are all located in the city’s Southside where the population of children with an incarcerated parent was known to be one of the highest in Richmond. Additionally, at that time, families who resided in the Blackwell community had the lowest median household income ($11,400), experienced the highest crime rate (based on police reports) and were the least educated (only 28% had a high school diploma) in the City of Richmond. Blackwell was also the location of a community revitalization project called Hope VI that displaced most public housing tenants.
The goal of the MAC Program is to provide assistance and support to these children and their caregivers by improving the families’ access to much needed resources and encouraging their children’s school success. Our goal is accomplished through strategies that address both the needs of the children and their caregivers. A core strategy includes support groups in the school that help children better understand and cope with the parent’s incarceration. Groups are organized by age and meet regularly for seventeen weeks and then decelerate to biweekly meetings for the remainder of the school year. The MAC staff works proactively with school personnel and community agencies to locate specialized programs and services that will increase children's chances of succeeding. Individualized attention to the caregivers facilitates a better understanding of the needs of their children. Many of the Milk and Cookies caregivers are grandmothers who need supportive services to help them cope with the unexpected responsibilities of raising their grandchildren. The MAC Program also provides assistance with transportation, in-home counseling and support, and advocacy with other service providers. Plans remain underway to initiate a specialized parenting group for the MAC caregivers.
When in service, the Milk and Cookies Program operates with full-time Program Coordinators who are part of an interdisciplinary outreach team housed in each of the school sites. Past school sites have included Blackwell, Swansboro, Bellemeade, Oak Grove, Summer Hill, Ruffin Road, Woodville Elementary, Fairfield Court and Westover Hills Elementary Schools. The other agencies represented on the team include Communities in Schools, Richmond Community Action Program (RCAP), Americorps, Youth Day Treatment, the Micah Initiative, Dominion Day Treatment and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, to name a few. Each of these agencies focuses their primary service on specific needs or risk factors, but work cooperatively with each other to share resources and promote a full menu of services. Weekly team meetings allow members to obtain input on individual service plans, plan joint programs, and communicate with school staff, administration and representatives.
Why I like the Milk and Cookies Program…
(The statements below were taken from an activity conducted with Milk and Cookies Program participants.)
- it teaches me not to fight
- it helps me understand the deal with being a good friend
- it teaches me not to accept negative energy
- it teaches me Kwanzaa words
- it teaches me about things I should or should not say and to do what I should do
- it helps me how I can control my anger at school and at home
- I get taught new things
- it teaches me to be nice to people who are nice to you
- it teaches me to walk away from bad things
- it taught me how to get over my anger
- I get along [with others] and it makes me feel better about my father