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Pittsburgh foundation gains new awareness for children of inmates

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Kylie Kuzma, 3, (left) of Beaver County plays doctor with Autumn Pallotti, 4, of Robinson as Alayia Mazzotta, 1, of Fox Chapel watches the girls while playing in the children's play area at the Allegheny County Jail. The three children were passing time in the play area while waiting to visit with inmates in the jail. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Kylie Kuzma, 3, of Beaver County plays with a tea set in the children's play area at the Allegheny County Jail while she waits with her grandmother, Connie Popp, to have a visit with her mother, who is an inmate in the jail. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Amachi Ambassador Ronnell Anderson, 20, of Homewood is majoring in social work at Slippery Rock University. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

When Ronnell Anderson's father was arrested and incarcerated more than a decade ago, little was in place in Allegheny County to help children of inmates deal with the loss of a parent.

“We don't fall into the same category as our parents,” Anderson, 20, of Homewood said on Thursday during a news conference for the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation. “We don't blame the parents, but we don't want people to stigmatize us for their decisions.”

Anderson made the remarks during the foundation's release of a report that said its push has been successful during the past 10 years to help the children of prisoners and that the foundation will focus its efforts on a new project to benefit children next year.

“We are ending our initiative, and we're going to define a new focus for the foundation,” executive director Claire Walker said. “Ten years ago, this was an invisible population. Now children and families are talked about; programs have been developed — re-entry programs, coached visits — there's an awareness to the issue.”

Walker said her organization has helped to facilitate protocols when police arrest parents with children younger than 18, develop communication resources between incarcerated parents and their children, re-entry programs at the jail to help families, a discharge center to assist parents in getting home upon release, and a renovated jail lobby to provide a welcoming waiting room for children.

County leaders said keeping families together through incarceration helps reduce recidivism.

“If we don't do these things, they end up going right back in,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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