The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry) has taken another step in its commitment to raise awareness and support for children with a parent in prison through the launch of JustKids, a movement that seeks participation from social service organizations, governments and individuals across the country, with the new website serving as a central point of information.
“Since identifying children of prisoners as a distinct subgroup in 2002, we have seen the difference support programs can make,” says Shawn Bayes, EFry’s executive director. “But as one organization, we can’t help all 2,100 Lower Mainland kids who have a parent behind bars, let alone the over 250,000 across Canada. We launched JustKids to invite others to join with us in helping to break the legacy of crime.”
While many other countries recognize children with a parent in the justice system as a marginalized subgroup, Canada does not. Left unsupported, statistics show more than 60 per cent of children who have had a parent in jail will one day go to jail themselves. Poor life outcomes are particularly acute when single mothers go to jail.
“As an organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of the needs of children, we are absolutely thrilled to see one of our members, the Elizabeth Fry Society, initiate a movement specifically addressing children disadvantaged by a parent’s incarceration,” says Peter Dudding, CEO of the Child Welfare League of Canada. “This is a very ambitious initiative.”
As part of JustKids, EFry is offering to share its knowledge on how to operate successful support programs such as its summer camps, Saturday Club and Storybook Program.
“We chose the name JustKids to emphasize that while children with a parent in the justice system need support, at the end of the day, they are just kids,” says Bayes. “As adults, we believe it is our duty to help them grow into happy, contributing adults.”
EFry support women, girls and children at risk, involved in or affected by the justice system.