A Thanksgiving Miracle for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Terrance Stevens, who is paralyzed and fully reliant on a power wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, had prayed for a miracle. The program he founded, In Arms Reach, Inc. (IAR), helps children of incarcerated parents and was about to close down because of a lack of funding. All he could think of was the happy faces of the many children who had passed through his mentoring program and the sadness he would feel if the program would be forced to shut down. His dream was to help the many children of New York State prisoners that live in his Harlem community and had been left with a great void in their lives.

He knew that the stigma of having an incarcerated parent coupled with an unstable care arrangement only exacerbated the trauma a child suffers. Statistics show that this could lead to a host of negative effects including poor academic achievement, drug and alcohol use, and involvement with the juvenile and adult criminal justice system.

But then his prayers were answered last week when In Arms Reach was awarded funding under the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program (MCP) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Administration of Children and Family Services. IAR received a $600,000 grant over three years that allows the organization to enhance its services and staff in order to provide the one-on-one mentoring program to the Harlem community.

"We are extremely excited to have this opportunity," states Terrence Stevens, Executive Director of In Arms Reach. "Over the past seven years, we have worked to effect change in the lives of our Harlem children. I am proud to say that today we are one step closer. This funding gives us the ability to effectively increase our mentor-mentee matches of our children and volunteers. Matching funds are required or else IAR runs the risk of losing the award. We look forward to playing a positive role in the city's call to community service. We are challenging New York City community leaders to step forward with a commitment to assist our fundraising or mentor recruitment efforts," says Stevens. Supporters of the program have been music mogul, Russell Simmons, musician John Forte and football great Carl Banks who is currently IAR board chairman.

According to the New York State Department of Corrections (NYSDOC), nearly 50% of all New York State inmates under custody are from the New York City area. In addition, nearly 60% of all NYSDOC inmates have reported as having one or more children. Under the MCP grant award, In Arms Reach will continue to focus its outreach to the substantial amount of children of prisoners throughout the Harlem community. IAR diligently recruits volunteers to provide one-on-one mentoring to youth ages 7 to 18 who have an incarcerated parent. Through providing exposure to positive role models, In Arms Reach hopes to achieve its motto," Every Child Deserves a Chance."

Stevens exclaimed, "Although we are required to match 25 percent of the federal dollars, it's going to be a great holiday for our kids knowing that the program still has a fighting chance to stay open, as the organization seeks donors. I understand how critical this organization is to an extremely vulnerable and large population of children."

About In Arms Reach Inc.

In Arms Reach Inc is a non-profit organization, which focuses on mentoring at risk youth and children with incarcerated parent(s). Located on the campus of City College of New York, IAR not only provides one-on-one mentoring, also after-school tutoring, college preparation courses, creative development through art and music and free prison visitation services. For more information or to make a donation to In Arms Reach, visit inarmsreach.net or call IAR at 917.939.5349.

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