At Extended Family, we routinely ask ourselves a very important question – “Does our work reflect our mission?” As this school year comes to a close, we look to the group to whom we hold ourselves the most accountable: Our Kids.
Through Extended Family, programs are offered in schools and juvenile diversion programs for students who have a loved one incarcerated. Through nine Extended Family for Kids Lessons, students learn “It’s not my fault!” They learn techniques for handling the stress of family incarceration, ways to deal with anger without getting them in trouble, and so much more.
Through offering EFK Programs, Extended Family staff are delivering on the organization’s Mission – To offer help and inspire hope. This Mission was motivated by the incredible story of Extended Family Founder and Executive Director, Laure Clemons and her family.
When Laure’s husband went to prison due to a drunk driving accident, Laure searched everywhere for instructions on how to get through the prison experience successfully, something that offered hope for herself and the daughters left at home. Finding nothing, she created Extended Family, a support system for families of prisoners. In 2007, she created Extended Family for Kids, to show children of the incarcerated how to get through this time in their lives successfully.
Since 2007, more than 2,000 students have experienced EFK Program Groups in Alabama and Georgia. These students, whom we call “Our Kids,” describe the same feelings today that Laure and her daughters felt nearly twenty years ago. Just look at the questions and answers we cover in Extended Family for Kids:
· What is hostility? “Hostility is anger plus action.”
· What does it mean to shut down? “When I shut down, it’s like being in an igloo – cold, dark, alone with your thoughts.”
· Describe depressed. “Depressed is when your thoughts are against you. You are withdrawn, inside your own self, not letting anyone else in.”
Extended Family for Kids Lessons show students how to cope with these feelings, make plans for their own future, and make good choices along the way. Following EFK Lessons, students write what they learned that day. Our Kids consistently share the positive lessons they are learning and using in their lives:
· “I learned you don’t have to let a family member in jail hold you back.”
· “I learned that we don’t have to do their time.”
· “I learned I am not alone or without hope.”
· “I learned it’s not my fault!”
The change in the feelings and attitudes of Our Kids across the course of Extended Family for Kids Lessons is one way we measure the success of our programs and determine if our work is reflecting our Mission. When we read these overwhelmingly positive comments, day after day, we know we are reaching our Mission – offering help and inspiring hope, one child at a time.