BY CRAIG COLEY
Children in Indiana are more likely than children in any other state except one to have or have had a parent in jail or prison, according to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Mary Goetze, founder of Kids with Absent Parents (KAP), estimates there are 1,000 children in Bloomington with an incarcerated parent. It’s a largely hidden population. “It’s not something families go around and announce,” she says.
Goetze, a retired professor of music, became aware of the needs of that hidden population through her work with the Read-to-Me literacy program that allows incarcerated parents to record themselves reading books to their children. On one visit, a parent asked Goetze about other services that might be available. “The question went off like a bomb in my head,” Goetze says, “because as I checked around, I found there was nothing specifically for them.”
In September 2017, Goetze launched KAP as a volunteer-run initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington’s Hope for Prisoners Task Force. “One of the main things that can help a child who has a parent who is incarcerated is having a loving adult who cares about them, and that’s where the community can come into play,” Goetze says.
Affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana and Girls Inc. of Monroe County, KAP currently serves 10 families with children ages 2 to 12. They meet two Saturdays each month for lunch. Then, while the children engage in organized activities, the caregivers participate in a support group facilitated by a professional social worker and a retired therapist.
“It’s a great opportunity for the caregivers to find out more about the resources in the community,” says Mark Voland, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
KAP prefers to provide experiences for the families—trips to a museum or a performance, for example—rather than material gifts, and would welcome donations of that kind, Goetze says.
To contact KAP, email [email protected] or leave a message at 812-334-2828, ext. 1227.