Alyssa* embraces her 18-month-old son outside the prison walls for the first time. Tears of joy and fear course down her cheeks. For months, Jonah’s Journey social workers and her son’s caregivers have assisted her as she mapped out a plan for rebuilding her life. Now Alyssa is encountering the reality of living out her plan and addressing the barriers between where she now stands and the stable, secure life she dreams of offering to her son.
As a single mother with a criminal past, women like Alyssa face challenges in gaining employment and finding affordable housing. Her need for childcare introduces additional obstacles to her re-entry to life outside prison.
Understanding the Numbers
Most childcare facilities operate from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. For mothers who work night shifts, swing shifts or weekends and have little in the way of family support, these hours leave huge gaps in the childcare puzzle. When Alyssa does find a company willing to hire her, they might not be able to work around her childcare schedule.
In addition to the limited hours of most childcare facilities, every family in the Nashville area is confronted by the decreased availability and rising cost of care. In June, The Tennessean addressed the issue by interviewing a family who spent months searching for an opening for their infant. The article cited statistics that showed while Davidson County’s population grew 21% in the last 18 years, the number of daycare facilities decreased by 16%.
As with any commodity, when supply decreases and demand increases, prices skyrocket. Daycare costs for one child average $7,406 per year — more than half a year’s salary for someone earning minimum wage.
Providing a Way
Jonah’s Journey caregivers invest their families, their time and their whole hearts into the love and safekeeping of the infants in their care. The completion of a mother’s prison sentence doesn’t mean the completion of the family’s care for her and her child. Jonah’s Journey social workers and caregivers walk alongside these mothers to ensure they receive every opportunity for a strong start to a new life.
A 2015 study by the Manhattan Institute found a 20% reduction in return to crime by nonviolent offenders when they find employment soon after their release from prison. Employment coupled with a strong support system that builds solutions for childcare reveals an even higher reduction in recidivism.
An often unspoken aspect of Jonah’s Journey are the respite caregivers – pairing recently released mothers with families interested in helping them rise to their true potential by offering free childcare. This opportunity is perfect for families who want to be involved with Jonah’s Journey but are not ready to pledge themselves to full-time caregiving. The commitment might be a few nights a week, one weekend a month or every weekend. However the need arises, this extra support during this phase of a mother’s life strengthens the outlook ahead of her.
If your family is ready to join a mother as she forges a new path into a successful future, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or look for opportunities at jonahsjourney.org.