Rose M. Singer Center on Riker’s Island – Hour Education and Advocacy Program
Hour Education and Advocacy Program (HEAP) is a program that reaches out to pregnant women and mothers incarcerated at Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) on Riker’s Island, the New York City jail complex that houses women. Hour Children believes that it is far better to keep a baby with its mother, even while she is incarcerated, than to place the baby in a foster care home or with family members who live in poverty. It is in the best interest of the child and the mother to have an opportunity to bond and develop an attachment, while at the same time the mother can learn parenting skills within a clean, safe, supportive and supervised setting. Further, the majority of women in RMSC have children, and some are pregnant when they arrive.
Hour Children provides education, advocacy and support that incarcerated mothers need when making life-changing decisions about their newborns or their young children. Staff interview and provide one-to-one counseling to nursery mothers, pregnant women, and new mothers, identify and interview pregnant women in the general prison population; deliver NYC DOHMH parenting workshop series; provide post natal workshops based on the identified needs of the new mothers currently in the nursery; and help pregnant women and new mothers transition to either a prison or release to the community.
Advocacy for Pregnant Women
Volunteer advocates and Hour Children’s Mental Health Program Coordinator and social workers support each woman in making the best decision for her own and her child’s future. A critical issue is helping the mother prepare and plan for the care of the baby after it is born.
Advocacy for Mothers
Volunteer advocates help incarcerated women communicate with their children and caretakers outside the prison. These mothers, devastated and preoccupied by separation from their children, seek all kinds of help ranging from a simple telephone call home to communication with foster care workers, teachers, and psychologists. The advocates and staff also work to locate children, assess their care and well-being, and provide weekend transportation for visits. When children are perceived to be at risk, we work with the mother and with other social service personnel to find an optimal solution.