BY CASSIDY KLEIN
Hour Children, a nonprofit in Long Island City that offers services to incarcerated or formerly incarcerated mothers and their children, received the 2018 Mutual of America Community Partnership Award last week.
“The award is for the work we do in prisons,” said Megan Campbell, the development director for Hour Children. “A big challenge women in prison face is having the ability to visit with their children.”
The Mutual of America Community Partnership Award recognizes nonprofits that show “exemplary leadership” by facilitating partnerships with public, private or social sector leaders to build a community for the greater good, according to their website. Ten organizations are awarded each year throughout the United States.
Hour Children, located at 36-11 12th St., was founded in 1992 by Sister Tesa Fitzgerald. The organization works to foster relationships between incarcerated mothers and their children by offering free transportation for kids to see their mothers in prison. They also provide transitional and permanent supportive housing for women navigating reentry, mental health services, mentoring to children who have a parent in prison, childcare and more.
“All our services are designed to meet the needs of families,” said Campbell, “But I think, and I assume Sister Tesa would say the same, that our number one service is housing. Everything really starts with having a place to lie your head as you figure the rest of it out.”
Hour Children has an advocacy program that reaches out to pregnant women and mothers incarcerated at Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) on Rikers Island, the New York City jail complex that houses women.
“It can be very difficult for a family to have transportation and time, and also a caregiver who is willing to help, for the children to visit their mothers,” said Campbell. “We run a lot of visiting programs and to help maintain those relationships. It is incredibly important for those women to be able to see their kids and have those relationships.”
Hour Children’s job training program places women in internal jobs with the nonprofit’s food pantry or two thrift stores, which are located at 25-22 34th Ave. and 12-10 36th Ave. in Long Island City.
“We have an internship program, ‘try before you buy,’ where companies hire our women on a trial basis, and many end up hiring them [the women] on a permanent basis,” Campbell said.
Hour Children has a historically low recidivism rate, which is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. About 3.5 percent of the women in Hour Programs will return to prison, compared to a national average which can range from 29 to 50 percent. This means that women in Hour Programs are 10 times less likely to return to prison.
Hour Children was named to acknowledge the “important hours that shape the life of a child with an incarcerated mother: the hour of their mother’s arrest, the hour of their visit and the hour of her release,” according to their website.
Campbell said Hour Children is always open to having volunteers to assist with their various services, including day care, the food pantry, taking kids on field trips and more. Those interested can find these opportunities under the “volunteer tab” on their website, hourchildren.org.