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Spotlight: Woman helps children with incarcerated parents

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | JANUARY 26, 2011 7:10 AM

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Kiesha Spearman used to get detentions and phone calls home from school. But now, the 16-year-old doesn’t get in trouble thanks to her mentor through Children of Promise.

“She gives me good advice and keeps me out of trouble,” she said, and the two often go to Steak & Shake and the mall. “She’s honest and comes to my school to check on me.”

Iowa City native Angie Jordan created Children of Promise — a mentor program for kids who have a parent on parole, on probation, or in prison — in 2008, when she was only 22. She had a dream of having an effect on kids who may not have many positive role models.

“I’m always impressed when a family or a kid can open up,” said Jordan, now 25. “I like to think that is because they see something positive that they can have through the program.”

While studying anthropology and psychology at the University of Iowa, she said, she had many experiences in social work that gave her a passion for kids with difficult family lives.

This led to her interest in helping children who grow up with parents in the corrections system, who are more likely to have problems with the law themselves. Children who have a parent in prison are five times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers, according to Women’s Prison & Home Association Inc.

Because many of the kids deal with adults leaving their lives, Jordan chooses mentors who plan on staying in the community and can commit to at least four hours a week. The program currently has 35 matches, but it needs more mentors for unmatched children.

“You spend four hours a week with a kid, doing anything from playing Scrabble to shooting hoops, whatever your interests and the kid’s interests are,” Jordan said.

Dana Johnson, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for Children of Promise, said Jordan is a key part to the leadership of the organization.

“I would describe [Jordan] as dedicated and involved,” Johnson said. “You can tell that she loves Children of Promise and all of the people who work together to make the organization a success.”

Children of Promise would like to expand the program to other communities neighboring Iowa City. Jordan views the Children of Promise program as a positive preventative measure in keeping kids out of trouble as they go through life.

With hopes of getting more grant money from the state to last the next three years, Jordan and her team of mentors aim to continue helping children in their communities.

“What’s cool about mentoring is you get to create a relationship based on reciprocity,” Jordan said. “So whatever you put into it, the kid just gives back. I’ve learned so much where sometimes I feel like I’m the protégé.”


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