Extended Family offers two programs for children in Kindergarten through 12th grades.  Extended Family for Kids (EFK) and Extended Leadership Academy (ELA).  EFK is an evidence-based, 9-lesson Curriculum for students of all ages and teaches them how to cope with the daily stresses of having a family member incarcerated, make plans for their future, and make good choices to improve their quality of life.  ELA is an 18-week Curriculum designed for older students who are planning for their future and helps students explore the qualities of their dream job, develop their interview skills, maintain healthy lives physically, mentally, and in their relationships, and enhance their communication skills, including using social media appropriately and the power of a thank you note.  Both programs share three common goals to break the cycle of incarceration in the family, prevent the child from entering the juvenile justice system, and to instill in each one the simple yet powerful message, “You matter.”

When a child’s loved one is incarcerated, especially if that loved one is the parent or primary caregiver, the odds of that child getting into trouble increase exponentially.  EFK and ELA Programs can interrupt that cycle by showing children a different path.  EFK focuses on the foundational message, “It’s not your fault!”  which gives children an escape from the shared stigma of having a loved one incarcerated and the freedom to live life and be happy with the skills learned in the lesson, “You don’t have to do their time!”  EFK and ELA Lessons encourage children to dream and plan for their futures, while reiterating to them that their dreams can come true, even though they have a loved one who is incarcerated.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in 2019 the number of youth in residential placement in the US was more than 36,000 (www.ojjdp.ojp.gov).  Although this number reflected a slight decrease from the previous years, the focus has turned to prevention on the national, state, and local levels.  EFK and ELA Programs are solutions-based, typically offered during the school day so that children can easily access them and are always free for each participant.  One ELA Presenter described the program through the students’ perspectives, “This is their Beta Club!”  We want these kids, who are often identified as “at-risk,” to have that sense of belonging and self-worth, two very important first steps in preventing children from following the pattern of poor decision-making set by their incarcerated loved ones.

Sometimes, it is easy to assume that every child recognizes their value, but, sadly, this is not always the case.  Our Kids are often shy and withdrawn when the program begins, not making good eye contact or not speaking out to be heard.  It is always such a gift to watch those same children grow and gain confidence over the course of the lessons and become leaders – even if it is only to better lead themselves!  Extended Family Programs give children the opportunity to shine and make sure that each child gets the message, “You matter.”We are so grateful to every community who rises to the occasion to share these programs with the children who need them most.  Together, we are making a difference, one child at a time!  If you would like more information about Extended Family or our Programs, please visit our website www.extendedfamilyhelp.org.

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