I still have my Girl Scout badge sash and a newspaper article about the year my father chaired the cookie sale in Temple, TX. I was in junior high school and looked pretty dorky in the photo, wearing my full green regalia. Daddy–never one to do anything in a small way–bought 12 dozen boxes of cookies. The freezer was packed with Thin Mints and those butter cookies I love with tea, and my friends knew what they’d be having for snacks at my house for the next year.
But enough of that. Today’s Girl Scouts are doing much more interesting things. “She’s Doing It” this week highlights one inspiring example.
“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.” ~Juliette Gordon Low, Founder – Girl Scouts of the USA
Many women attribute their mother to be the very 1st mentoring relationship in their lives. A mother’s counsel and guidance through all the phases of your growing up are often the cornerstones of what makes many of us the women we are today. But what if your mom is in prison?
Children of incarcerated parents are among the most vulnerable populations of children, at high risk for neglect, abuse, behavioral health problems, delinquency and substance abuse. National studies report that children of incarcerated parents are five to seven times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. It is for this reason that this week’s She’s Doing It is featuring Barbara Strachan, the Program Director of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) for the Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scout Council.
GSBB works with both incarcerated mothers and their daughters in order to decrease the negative impact of parental separation. Strachan says their aim is to nurture, and in some cases reestablish mother-daughter relationships, developing their strengths and encourages both to make positive decisions towards both of their futures. Since 2003, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars has served more than 800 mothers and daughters.
In July 2011, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust awarded the GSBB program with a grant of $114,000 over the next two years to allow Strachan and her team the ability to dramatically expand its mentorship program from 17 to 75 mentors and will almost double the number of girls served by GSBB from 75 to 150 by 2014.
“We know that children who have caring, committed adults in their lives do better and are more stable socially, financially and emotionally as adults. The lives of the girls in GSBB are profoundly changed in a way that is simply not possible without this kind of close attention.” ~Tamara J. Woodbury, CEO – Girl Scouts, Arizona Cactus-Pine Council
Strachan says the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council’s GSBB Program was created in 1994 as a partnership between the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Parents Anonymous. Mothers are recruited through the prison to participate in the program and are required to attend parenting classes. She says the class is provided at the Perryville Prison through Rio Salado Community College, participants receive college credit and a licensed, independent counselor facilitates the parenting class for Maricopa County Sheriff Office participants.
Then there are the activities for the girls which Strachan says a key component of the GSBB program. She says the community troops serve all the girls participating in the program and if you were ever a girl scout, they sound pretty familiar such as songs, games and crafts. For the older girls, the program addresses character education, life skills building and tools to assist girls in making healthy choices.
“The girls also have the chance to take part in an annual Girl Scout Beyond Bars summer trip and Girl Scout Camp. Outdoor experiences such as day camping, summer resident camp, archery, backpacking and canoeing are additional opportunities for girls who lack stability at home to develop confidence in themselves physically, mentally and socially as potential leaders and members of a team.” ~Barbara Strachan
The Arizona Cactus-Pine Council serves two-thirds of Arizona and the majority girls who benefit from Girl Scout programs reside in Maricopa County. The Council also provides programming to girls living in Apache, Coconino, Gila, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, and Yavapai counties, the northern half of Pinal and Graham counties, the portion of the Navajo nation that extends into Utah and New Mexico, and the southern portion of Clark County, Nevada. The Council provides programming to more than 24,500 girls with assistance from 9,800 volunteers.