As many of us gear up for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, it is important to remember that many, many children will be spending the holidays in the Department of Correction, detention centers, residential treatment facilities, and emergency shelters. In most of those facilities, the administration and staff try to make some accommodations to recognize the holidays throughout the year, and to be sensitive to the children who do not observe certain holidays.
In some of the higher security facilities, the children may be given a special holiday meal and a movie night or extra time for games and activities. Often accommodations are made for extra family visitation or phone calls. In non-secure facilities, staff and volunteers from the community may donate gifts for the confined children and may do craft projects with the children to make cards and gifts for the children’s families. There may be holiday meal events for the children and their families a few days before the holidays.
If the facility, placing agency, and court feel that it is appropriate, some children are given passes to spend a brief amount of time with family in their home community. Often, there are safety plans put in place that clearly lay out the supervision expectations for the child while away from the facility. This brief time of normalcy can give the treatment team useful information about how the children reacted to the pressures of being back in the community with more freedom.
As part of a normal intake process, the placing agency will give the facility information about the child and, if age-appropriate, the child will be interviewed to determine religious preferences and any special dietary needs associated with that designated preference. While detained, it is common to give the children access to an appropriate community religious leader or staff person at least weekly to maintain the child’s religious practice, or at least to provide periods of quiet contemplation and prayer.
If you have the time or financial means, consider reaching out to the facilities in your region about ways to help with the holidays next year. There is always a need.