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Help build strong children

The hidden tragedy behind the jail and prison population in America is that more than half of those people has at least one child under 18.

In 2010, a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 2.7 million minor children in America had a parent in jail or prison. The data mean 1 in 28 American children has an incarcerated parent — that’s roughly one per classroom in your average school. Half of the parents in a report from the Bureau of Justice reported they were the primary provider for their children before their incarceration.

So many American children have a parent incarcerated that “Sesame Street” in 2013 even added a character whose father in prison.

Someone who’s never been in that situation can scarce imagine the heartbreak suffered by the innocent youngsters, even on a regular day. The sadness is likely to be amplified on Christmas Day, especially if the children think they’ve been forgotten by their incarcerated parent.

The famous abolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglass, famously wrote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

That’s the philosophy Quniana Futrell, the founder of Building Resilience in Communities Inc., has put into action with her organization and its annual Christmas celebration for children who have incarcerated parents.

Herself the child of parents who were both incarcerated in her youth, Futrell knows what it feels like to have parents who can’t make Christmas happen because they are in jail or prison.

For the third time this year, she is collecting toy donations to give to about 100 children who have a parent incarcerated at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, in Suffolk, as well as at Hampton Roads Regional Jail. Children at the event will get the chance to have brunch, see Santa and find a gift under the tree especially for them, tagged from their parent who is incarcerated. The adults who bring the children will also be able to hear from motivational speakers while the kids play.

This admirable outreach can never fully make up to these children that their parents, through no fault of the child, are incarcerated. It can, however, begin to build them into strong children.

Futrell deserves applause for her efforts. If you can help with a gift, a monetary donation or volunteering at the Dec. 23 event, email info@brcinc.org or call 598-4BRC.