MIAMI (CBSMiami) — It was an emotional day for a number of children in Miami-Dade and Broward County as they visited their fathers who are in prison. For some, it was the first time they’ve seen them in months and in some cases years.
Inmate Warren Harris hadn’t seen his daughter in six years. She was a little girl when he last held her.
“She came in the door. I didn’t even know who she was. It kind of threw me off,” said Harris.
“It was just overwhelming. I haven’t seen him in a long time. I had a feeling I was gonna cry. I was just so happy,” said Warnisha Davis, the inmate’s daughter.
For inmate Eric Marshall, it’s the first time he met his 1-year old granddaughter.
“Real nervous..I didn’t know how she was going to take to me,” said Marshall.
It was emotional and jittery reunions for inmates and their kids, who got the chance to play games, pick toys and spend some quality time together as a family. They were reconnected by the “Children of Inmates” program created to help children of incarcerated parents form real relationships with their fathers and reduce the trauma associated with the arrest and absence of a parent.
“Help you reunite with your kids, be a better person,” said inmate Deletrius Edwards.
“It’s a good feeling to see them and connect with them that way you don’t feel like a stranger,” said Marshall.
Across South Florida, there are around 50,000 kids with a parent in prison, many struggling through the separation.
“These children were falling through the cracks of social services and the education system..often times kids with incarcerated parents are two to three times more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior,” said Samuel Ludington, Children of Inmates Program Deputy Director.
The program allows kids to bond with dad and create positive memories.
“Feels good to have someone who you know really love you,” said Edwards.
For the inmates, building relationships with their kids gives them a reason to get it together, to make up for the years missed and know that they have someone to look forward to when they get out.
“I’m ready to get home. She’s my motivation to get out,” said Harris.
Gives me a lot of motivation.. to stay off the streets do the right thing,” said inmate Jene Ramirez. “Gotta see her grow up.”
The program coordinates visits around the state from Ocala to Florida City and kids get the chance to visit every three to four months.