Dallas group hosts a special Foundation Camp for children of incarcerated mothers.
In June, Windsong hosted a different kind of family camp. Brittany Barnett-Byrd brought twenty-two girls, ages 10 through 17, and four moms. The other moms couldn’t come because they are in prison.
Barnett-Byrd is the founder of GEM, Girls Embracing Mothers, a ministry in Dallas that has helped girls of incarcerated mothers since 2013. “When one person goes to prison, the entire family goes to prison,” Brittany Barnett-Byrd writes on her website. She is also a lawyer and criminal justice advocate—seven of her clients have received presidential pardons.
And she understands the girls she serves because she is one of them.
“I started this program because my mom went to prison,” said Barnett-Byrd. “I was 21 years old, and I know how much that affected me even as a young adult.”
The most important thing Barnett-Byrd and the younger girls in GEM have in common? “We all love our mommas,” she said. “They aren’t bad people, but they made some bad choices.”
At Windsong, GEM brought its girls together for four days in a camp environment where they could be around other girls who were going through the same struggles. The camp curriculum focused on building self-esteem by reminding each girl that their lives are not defined by their moms’ worst mistakes.
Camp is a new part of GEM. Throughout the year, the program primarily helps the children visit their moms in jail. The girls meet at 8:00 am in a church parking lot on the first Saturday of each month, board a bus together, and ride two hours to the Linda Woodman State Jail in Gatesville, Texas, where the girls and their moms have an extended four-hour visitation, including a meal.