Parenting program at Oregon Women’s Prison funded for 2 more years

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The YWCA of Portland and state lawmakers have stepped in to continue a program that helps some mothers in Oregon Prison bond with their children.

The program, called the Family Preservation Project, targets women serving time for non-violent offenses at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Willsonville. It serves a dozen families at a time.

The Department of Corrections cut the program earlier this year, saying it was too expensive – $ 300,000 a year – and served too few people.

This prompted the mothers of the Family Preservation Project to spend weeks in Salem lobbying the legislature to restore funding.

“When you can reach out to your children, comfort them, or help them with their homework while you are in jail, it is priceless,” said Nova Sweet, who spent 36 months in Coffee Creek for burglary. and drug trafficking.

The program allows mothers to communicate with their children twice a month in a room filled with books and art supplies. Social workers advise mothers indoors and run a support group for caregivers raising children outdoors.

Sweet said the program made it easier for her and her two children to transition into family life after her release.

“I got right into making lunches, taking my kids to school, putting them to bed, setting expectations. I know without a doubt that it’s because of the program, because there is no There is no way my kids could have trusted me, if I hadn’t had all this practice before I left prison, ”she said.

Sweet estimated that she had traveled to Salem once or twice a week for three months to argue her case before lawmakers.

Senator Chip Shields, a Democrat who represents north and northeast Portland, helped draft the end-of-session budget bill that included $ 400,000 to keep the program going for two more years.

“The funding for this is one-time funding, so it will be a battle for the next legislative session,” Shields said.

As part of the funding agreement, the YWCA of Portland agreed to administer the program.

Susan Stoltenberg, executive director of the YWCA, said she expects the family preservation project to be relaunched in September.

“We are looking, in partnership with the Department of Corrections, to see if we can serve more women, just as deeply, and to expand our work with women to support each other inside the prison,” a- she declared.

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