Restoring Connections In Vulnerable Families

Jessica Reid understands a child's heartbreak when a parent is absent.  Her own experience with this and her subsequent joy at being reunited with her dad, Derek Reid, is what led them to found FEAT in 2011, now a registered charity with a challenging mandate, as encapsulated by the acronym in their name.  Derek was visibly moved as he told us about how FEAT for Children of Incarcerated Parents was founded and why it is committed to tackling these challenges day by day.
In Canada, over 400,000 adults are remanded annually, and 120,000 are incarcerated.  We consider justice to have been done when someone is sent to prison, but often fail to consider that the sentence is being imposed on the families of the prisoners too.  About 25,000 kids in the Toronto area face stigma, secrecy and a lack of support in connection with a relative who is incarcerated.  These children are 4 times more likely than other to have trouble with the law and are at greater risk of experiencing poverty and gun violence.
FEAT was the first organization to offer assistance to the children of people living in prisons.  It offers 6 programs geared to kids of various ages including:
Derek described the family visitation program as the one for which funds are hardest to raise, despite intense interest from the media.  Adult participants pay a modest fee for being transported to the penetentiaries.  Peer and counselor support is provided as the visits often bring up strong emotions.  While the focus of the program is on the needs of the children, research indicates recidivism among inmates who are visited is about 10%, compared with 30 - 35% for those who are not visited.  Contact with the children and their families continues to the degree that they want it after the inmate is released.
The Kilometers for KIP walk is an annual fundraiser mounted by FEAT.  This year, the focus of the October 19th event will be to raise funds for a new bus to be used for the visitation program.  The annual mileage generated by the program exceeds 100,000 kilometers per year, and the current vehicle is past its prime with more than 460,000 k on the dial.  FEAT plan to convert the old bus to a food truck with the assistance of Food Dudes.  The food truck will be used for ongoing fundraising at events such as Rotary Rib Fests, and could provide work opportunities for at-risk youth.