Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Saturday

I did something interesting, meaningful, and non-earth-shaking yesterday. I
began my life as a volunteer for the program called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars.

I picked up three girls, two of whom were sisters. I just
about jumped out of my skin when the 16 year old told me she has a 19 month
old daughter, who is in a separate foster care home from hers.

My job was to drive the girls to the prison, then escort them in and help
out at the meeting, then drive the girls back home. We got to the prison at
9, went through the metal detector and the checking of who was there, who
was on their list, etc. In all they seemed to be pretty laid back, as it
was a minimum security--there is also medium security that they have a
separate meeting at, but I was at the minimum today. I got to meet all the
moms and girls, and they're from all over Oregon. Talked with one mom who
had given birth while in prison....and I asked her about how that is. Very
hard, she said. I had read an article that said that a lawsuit is going on
to try to get prisons to stop the practice of shackling laboring moms to
their hospital beds. I call that cruel and unusual punishment! Like the
laboring mom is going to run? Please. This mom said she could have been
shackled, but was given special dispensation.

After the meeting, I went over to medium to pick up the two sisters, who'd
gone there to visit their mom. The youngest, probably about 8, eagerly
showed me the craft she'd made--a piece of fabric with her name written on
it in fabric paint. Then she promptly dropped it on the wet ground and it
got messed up. We put it in the trunk of my car, and she got in the car.
As I handed her the cup of water I'd carried for her, I saw she was crying.
I'm sure it wasn't just about the ruined craft, but that her mom had helped
her make it. She only gets to see her mom twice a month, or maybe once a
week if her dad takes her on the weekends that Girl Scouts doesn't take her.

Later in the afternoon, back at home, Paul and the kids were telling me
about their visit to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). A robot
exhibit just opened today and they'd had a good time playing with the
robots. Paul was telling me it was fun helping these robots to learn,
because the questions they asked were similar to questions a child would
ask. But, it's difficult sometimes, because other people have put faulty
info into them, like one robot was asking for more info on "astronants" that
someone else had told it about. There was no way to tell the robot--no, you
have it wrong, it's astronauts, not astronants. I said that's just like
these kids--you can't go back and undo their past. You have to move

So, I said what I did was non-earth-shaking because it wasn't anything big,
but something very small that's a good thing because it's one of many little
steps. These girls can maintain a relationship with their moms because of
this program.


Mal said...

I absolutely love your blog. You do such great things for the community and I'd really like to start doing that. You've really inspired me. :)

I know many girls who became pregnant in middle school and it's so sad. They deserve better, the babies deserve better, their families deserve better... Babies are such a gift, but not when children have them. [/gets off soapbox lol]

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your blog! I never realized that your 12th year was so full.

Wow! I could not imagine a life of child/parent seperation. How terribly sad -- glad that you were able to help out on the uniting process. Hopefully your little bit of help will help the lifelong relationship that they have. =)
-Libby (choosing to go anonymous cuz it is easier)

Mimi said...

What a blessing, Elizabeth! Thank you.

Was the craft ok after drying?

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, everyone! Mal, you're so kind. I am also inspired by young people like you and my daughter who take charge of their own lives in meaningful ways. And yeah, I agree--babies are absolutely wonderful, but I don't know how a 14 year old deals with one, when it was hard work at age 25 to have mine.

Libby--I didn't realize how much happened in my 12th year either until the day I wrote that post. Funny, huh?

Mimi--I dropped her off while the paint was still wet, but it got quite smudged. I'm sure it didn't ever get any better than it was. :-(

ausurfer said...

I came across your blog a month or so ago, when looking for blogs of people who lived in Portland, because I wanted to get an insight into the "locals" -- I was coming for a visit and some advance knowledge is always useful. I made that visit mid May and was very impressed -- I could easily relocate. :-)

I really enjoyed this posting -- what a wonderful program that the Girl Scouts and the prison system have developed. I'm sure it must be hard for both the mums and their daughters to be separated like this -- thankfully there are people like you willing to make a difference.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I look forward to each week when I come and read about what has been a part of your family's life -- very inspiring to say the least. :-)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, ausurfer! I'm glad you're here. Portland is a wonderful place to live. I'd highly recommend it.