Grant To Help Oklahoma Children With Parents Inside Criminal Justice System

State child advocates said resources run few and far between communities where children wait for the day they see their parents again. The Department of Corrections received a grant of more than $700,000 to help improve services and keep families together.

Tuesday, February 27th 2024, 10:41 pm

By: News 9, Jordan Fremstad


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About half of the people serving time in state prisons are parents, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

State child advocates said resources run few and far between communities where children wait for the day they see their parents again.

The Department of Corrections received a grant of more than $700,000 to help improve services and keep families together. The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth will ensure the vision is put into practice. 

Inside Annette Wisk-Jacobi's office in Oklahoma City, children have support and a voice. Wisk-Jacobi leads a charge to identify and solve problems facing Oklahoma youth. “Our indicators of child-wellbeing in Oklahoma are not good,” Wisk-Jacobi said. “We have a ways to go for improvement. [We are] focused on solutions as well as looking for problems within our systems.” 

She is the executive director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, a watchdog state agency that collaborates with community organizations to support children impacted by various systems. “These people fight the good fight every day,” Wisk-Jacobi said. “It takes all of us to solve these problems.” 

Wisk-Jacobi is directing the grant money to organizations that make a real difference in children’s lives. The OK Messages Project – an organization that records incarcerated parents reading to their children -- is one of the programs receiving grant money. Shenita Jefferson was a parent impacted by the criminal justice system who currently serves on the OK Messages Board. “This is a beautiful way to kinda respect love,” said Jefferson, during an interview with News 9 last December. “The biggest pieces of my life are my kids.”  

OK Messages Assistant Program Director Ali Plum cares about children left with a void. “I never want them to feel alone or unseen or like they don’t have a voice,” Plum said. 

Wisk-Jacobi said if a person could imagine these children’s lives, “Their lives can feel pretty tenuous,” she said. However, the conversations at OCCY – help deliver a hopeful message to impacted children in the community. “If we want Oklahoma to thrive. If we want children to feel like they have an opportunity to become a great citizen, we all have to participate,” Wisk-Jacobi said. 

This grant money will also go to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma and New Hope Oklahoma. This money will fund visits for children and their incarcerated parents along with after-school programming. 

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