HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has announced that it is making a Sesame Street publication called “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” available in its visiting rooms. The publication is designed to reduce the anxiety, sadness and confusion that children might experience when a parent is serving a sentence.
“As a state agency that is responsible for incarcerating individuals, we also are aware that such incarceration greatly affects the children of inmates. By making this publication available in our visiting rooms, we are helping young Pennsylvanians through difficult times in their lives,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.
The book is designed to address a longstanding concern by Gov. Tom Corbett, who noted that 81,096 children in Pennsylvania have a parent incarcerated in the state correctional system.
The Sesame Street book focuses on children ages 3-through-8 with a bilingual book – English on one side, Spanish on the other. It also gives at-home caregivers tips and strategies on how to talk with children about incarceration. The books are offered at the family-inmate visiting rooms at no charge.
Wetzel noted that the department also has partnerships with groups such as Amachi Pittsburgh that also provide services to children of inmates. Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal has been overseeing outreach programs to inmate families.
In addition, the DOC began offering to male inmates in 2012, a voluntary fatherhood program using materials from the National Fatherhood Initiative.
The “Inside Out Dad” program is intended to help inmate fathers develop empathy for the needs of others, increase family communication, build family support and cohesion, increase awareness of the developmental needs of other family members, substitute nurturing parenting for abusive parenting practices and understand the importance of values and goals in making decisions.