Reflections from an Incarcerated Dad

Nationally it is estimated that the number of kids who have had a parent in jail or prison at some point hovers around a conservative estimate of 5.1 million. For children with a parent in jail or prison, distance, cost, visitation restrictions, family conflict, and legal barriers can make it difficult for children to remain in contact with their parent. They may even lose that connection permanently as the Adoption and Safe Families Act is an even larger barrier for parents who are incarcerated. A young parent I work with, Daniel Loera, describes the importance of his daughter in his life,  as well as his young-adult insight regarding his own path to prison, his resilience, and his efforts to honor his family and find healthy community outside of gangs:

The thought as an eight-year-old kid making the plans of never seeing the age of eighteen is so shocking now that I'm twenty-two. It was a plan that not only I made, but many other childhood friends did the same. At the age of eight when I joined the gang, I never thought that there could be any other life style except fight the never-ending street war that claims many lives across the country. I painted my life around the gang there wasn’t anything I wanted to change, until I found out I had a beautiful little girl that needed me even if I was incarcerated. I had more to offer in life. I denounced the gang on my eighteenth birthday. I had given ten critical years of my childhood and with my conviction now seven years of my daughter’s life are without her father. I don't want my daughter to grow up with the thought of me not caring about her so I want to show that I would do anything to prove my love for her. With leaving the gang I have found myself enjoying life without worrying about getting shot or even worse my family's house getting shot. With this weight lifted from my shoulders I can now finally breath with a sigh of relief to try and save the future generations of children. We can stop this epidemic by teaching the young children that there is more to life then the gang life style. That they are special in their own way, to dream big because no dream is to big or to small they can all be reached with HOPE. To do my part, I want to help show that there are other ways to find community. To help them find different community. I have dreams for when I get out of starting an art therapy program or other ways to engage young people that without other options, the gang is the only community they know. --Daniel Loera, 22 years old, Washington State.

Daniel’s circumstances around incarceration led him to recently relinquish his parental rights to his daughter so that she could be adopted by foster care parents (more on our next blog). Daniel’s own father was in jail when he was a child. So, he is a child of an incarcerated parent, and an incarcerated parent. Daniel harmed someone. But Daniel was also harmed. What would have helped him would have been opportunities for alternative sentencing, support for mental health and help with overcoming trauma. What he got was prison. Daniel shares his words as he hopes to impact young people who may be in similar circumstances and also help us make legal change that is necessary to support parents and their children. Please share with those you know who may need his words and to know they are not alone.

Lill M. Hewko and Daniel Loera


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Monthly Feature

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People's Movement Western Regional Conference

Convened by All of Us or None & Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

Sunday, September 20th & Monday, September 21st

Formerly incarcerated and convicted people, family members, community and spiritual leaders, elected officials and government employees will all come together to strengthen our relationships and work towards making change through community empowerment. We invite you to Voice your opinion, learn your rights and learn what changes we can make together. All of Us or None Contact: (415)-255-7036 ext. 337