By Denise Caldwell, Community Resource Coordinator – Fort Worth
Who knows better than mom, right? That was the thinking behind a new mentoring group for the parents of juvenile justice-involved youth in the DFW area.
The new group, formed this summer, brings together volunteer mothers from Gateway Church in Southlake with the mothers (and dads are welcome too) of youth on TJJD parole or at halfway houses in TJJD’s Fort Worth Parole District.
It is called M2M or MOM2MOM and its goal is to help strengthen community connections and support the entire family as a young person moves through the system. DFW family members with youth at Gainesville State School, McFadden Ranch or Willoughby halfway houses or on parole are welcome to join.
The founding group of volunteers held their first gathering on June 1, treating interested family members to a brunch and meet and greet at the church. The volunteers told the family members that they wanted to support them as they navigated the TJJD system and helped their youth find success.
The meeting resonated with both volunteers and participants.
“I came all the way from Corsicana because I need this”
“I came all the way from Corsicana because I need this,” said Maggie O., the mother of a youth at Gainesville State School. “It’s hard having a son in TJJD and not knowing what’s going on. He calls me and tells me things, like he said he thought they were moving him but he wasn’t sure, and then they moved him. And I didn’t know where he was at first.
“It’s better though, he’s closer now,” she said, adding that she was so grateful for the caring volunteers.
Another TJJD Mom, Abigail G., said she’s looking forward to her son’s release.
“I already told him, you’re doing real good in TJJD now make sure you do good when you get out!”
For her, just having someone to talk to about the situation was helpful. “I raised all my kids right and they just made their own decisions. Sometimes they were bad decisions but they know they had consequences,” she said. “If my son gets out and doesn’t do right, I will call the police on him, I don’t care, I know some mothers don’t want to do that, but I will.”
Mom2Mom’s is having a big impact on volunteers, as well.
Naom Sam-Kpakrai of Gateway was inspired to start a prayer chain to pray for the moms.
“It just touched my heart, we’re all moms and we all want the best for our children… and sometimes it’s hard when that doesn’t or isn’t happening,” she said.
The church volunteers’ initial idea had been to set up a mentoring group for the young women at TJJD. But they realized the impracticality of that after learning the girls were all housed at the Ron Jackson facility, two hours away in Brownwood. Brainstorming with TJJD parole staff, the volunteers landed on the new idea of helping parents.
The shift toward mentoring mothers has revealed a different, but important need.
“Being able to mentor and support other moms is blessing – for them and for us,” said Emma Rowe, the lead for the Gateway Prison Ministry and the TJJD Lead at McFadden and Willoughby House.
Sue Proctor, who doesn’t attend Gateway but is a McFadden mentor and pen pal agrees.
“As mothers, as people, we do our best but when your best isn’t good enough, what do you do?” she asked. “I learned to pray, because I wasn’t always the person I am now.”
The women worked together at their first meeting to define the purpose and mission of the group and to offer comfort and encouragement to each other.
The Gateway women offered prayer, a listening ear and information on resources that can help families cope, both with their child’s absence from home and their ultimate return home.
The volunteer mentors, mothers themselves, shared stories of similar struggles and hardship, letting the TJJD moms know that they were not alone.
The TJJD mothers and family members shared their specific challenges. One mother spoke about her concern when her son was moved to another facility unexpectedly and another talked about her child’s discipline problems.
Gateway Church provided door provided door prizes, as well as the brunch, for the family members attending. The next Mom2Mom gathering will be this fall, when the group is planning a picnic. The volunteers also are discussing how to improve their outreach, possibly with a door-to-door mentoring program.