Despite torrential rains, members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office made several stops on Friday to provide a little Christmas cheer to area children whose parents are incarcerated at the Arkansas Department of Correction. Deputies delivered gifts as part of a collaborative effort created by the Palarm Missionary Baptist Church of Mayflower, Arkansas, who this year are being assisted by Teach for America and the JCSO.
The three are working with the J. Aaron Hawkins Sr. Center-Wrightsville Women’s Prison to host an Angel Tree for 150 children who will be without one or both parents this holiday season as a result of incarceration. This initiative is being conducted in 30 counties across Arkansas.
According to a 2014 study by the National Resource Center on Children and Families, more than 2.7 million children in the United States have an incarcerated parent, which is 1 in 28 kids.
“The impact of those statistics are alarming, and makes it tough for some families during the holidays,” said JCSO Operations Commander Maj. Lafayette Woods Jr.
The National Resource Center on Children and Families suggests that while many of the risk factors children of incarcerated parents experience may be related to parental substance abuse, mental health, inadequate education, or other challenges, parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or experiencing household instability independent of these other problems.
“As a child, my siblings and I were very fortunate to have both parents during our upbringing and through our adult lives,” Woods said. “As children, we never experienced going without life’s necessities and a joyful Christmas by waking up to a room filled with the things we hoped that Santa (our parents) would bring us.”
The partnership between JCSO and Teach for America is an opportunity for the two to collaborate in order to spread a little holiday cheer by stepping up and supporting those families who do not have the traditional home setting.
“Although we understand that Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, witnessing a child waking up on Christmas and making their way to the Christmas tree to unwrap a gift is blessing,” Woods said. “The look on their faces is priceless.”