In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Brownieland Team partnered with Motherhood Beyond Bars (MBB), an Atlanta nonprofit organization that supports infants with an incarcerated mother and reunifies families. For our January Volunteer Project, MBB and the Brownieland Team created a project called Quilted Together. We wrote 100 letters to pregnant incarcerated women and created an Amazon Wishlist Donation Drive that includes urgently needed items. You can find the wishlist HERE, where donations will be accepted through the end of January.
Motherhood Beyond Bars (MBB) is a nonprofit organization that provides support for infants born to incarcerated women and works to reunify families. MBB was founded in 2013 when a group of dedicated volunteers from Emory University’s graduate schools came together to improve the health and well-being of incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women in Georgia. The vision of Motherhood Beyond Bars (MBB) is for every woman to have access to quality care and compassionate childbirth support. Furthermore, MBB believes that every child born to an incarcerated woman deserves to be bonded from birth and supported by a community of care. Some of the services MBB has offered over the years are weekly evidenced-based pregnancy and childbirth education classes, prenatal yoga, support groups for postpartum women, and monthly baby showers. In 2020, MBB expanded its services to reach more families and women with additional programs that include: a caregiver support program, reentry services for mothers reunifying with their children, and a complete pregnancy and parenting support program for women currently serving a sentence on probation or parole.
The problem that Motherhood Beyond Bars brings to light is that poor people are disproportionately represented in prisons, and their children are highly vulnerable. In Georgia, poor women inside prison give birth to babies who are then cared for by poor women outside of prison. When an incarcerated woman gives birth in Georgia, she is separated from her newborn within 24 to 48 hours; there are no “prison nurseries” in Georgia, so women return to prison within days of giving birth, and caregivers are notified to pick up the infant at the hospital. Many of these caregivers lack a support system to help with the inevitable challenges that come with caring for a newborn. The hardships that follow often perpetuate a persistent cycle of poverty for the family.
Motherhood Beyond Bars is working toward a solution to this problem by launching their Caregiver and Infant Support Program that provides tangible, informational, and emotional support to caregiver families supporting an infant who has a mother in prison. This effort is the first of its kind in Georgia and begins the minute a caregiver picks up a newborn from the hospital, where medical staff provides an MBB Begin Box, which includes diapers, formula, a safe sleeping space, newborn clothing, bathing supplies, and dozens of other items. COVID-19 has put a strain on caregivers who tell MBB that these newborn supplies have been “lifesavers” for them. MBB also provides families with a Motherhood Beyond Bars Navigator, who assists families as they settle in at home, and diapers each month for the first year of life. MBB believes that birth should be transformative, not traumatic, and that every newborn deserves a loving start. Find out more about Motherhood Beyond Bars HERE and how you can help HERE.