By KAITLYN NAPLES
Bristol Youth Services is piloting a new program beginning this month that will provide support for children who have, or had a parent or loved one incarcerated.
Eileen McNulty, director of Bristol Youth Services, said there aren’t many programs in the area that provide this kind of support.. She added that Bristol Youth Services have been seeing more families in their programs dealing with loved ones who have been or are incarcerated.
“It is nice to have a program to help the children, specifically, go through the changes in their families,” McNulty said, adding that intern Amy Duquette will be conducting the 12-week program that begins on Feb. 18.
The program is called SKIP (Supporting Kids of Incarcerated Parents). The first installment of the program will host six children between the ages of 9- and 11-years-old, and help them recognize their own strengths, provide ways to help them deal with the transitions of a parent or loved one either entering into, or just coming out of, prison.
“It is a way to help them go through whatever they might be facing, and turn it into something positive,” McNulty added.
The children in the program will go through an interview process with their parents or guardians first to find out more about the situation and what the child is aware of. Throughout the program, children will receive education and support about ways to cope with issues in a constructive way, through writing, art and more, and make sure all children in the program feel comfortable in their envi-ronment.
The program is a pilot, so McNulty said Youth Services will evaluate it to see if it can be continued. She said she hopes to continue it in the future, since “we are finding that not a lot of other organizations are offering this type of support program specifically for the children.”
According to the state’s convicted sex offender website, about 85 residents of Bristol are on that list which means most, if not all, of them have served time in prison. These individuals may have children of their own, and even if they are grown they could have used a support service like SKIP.
“We just want the community to know there is help available,” McNulty said, adding that in addition to SKIP, Youth Services can set families up with other kinds of counseling available for the entire family.
The SKIP program will be held on Tuesdays, starting Feb. 18 and run until May 6. The group will meet from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Bristol Youth Services, 51 High St.
For registration or more information, contact Amy Duquette at (860)314-4690.