FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2007
Ceremony Celebrates Opening of “Family Activity Center” at Allegheny County Jail Lobby area now family-friendly space focused on reducing children’s stress and providing information to caregivers
PITTSBURGH – Warden Ramon Rustin and members of the community today gathered at the Allegheny County Jail to dedicate the Family Activity Center, which has transformed the Jail’s lobby into a more child-friendly atmosphere.
The Family Activity Center is a collaborative effort of more than 100 grant makers, organizations, and individuals led by the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF), the Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections, and Lydia’s Place, Inc.
“Creating such a facility has been my dream for many years,” said Warden Rustin. “While the center’s size is relatively small, its purpose is certainly immense. It will serve as a comfortable setting for children waiting to visit their incarcerated parents. Equally important, it will encourage children to spend quality time interacting with their caregivers while they wait.”
The Family Activity Center includes a craft area, video nook and book corner, as well as mock visiting booths to help children prepare for visits. Full-time employees and trained volunteers will offer caregivers information on services and resources important to the wellbeing of children.
“With the assistance and input of many, many individuals and organizations, we have created a ‘comfort zone’ to reduce children’s stress as they wait to visit loved ones,” said PCGF Executive Director Claire Walker. “We have introduced a model program that we sincerely expect jails throughout the nation to replicate in the years ahead.”
Kip Bryant, board president of Lydia’s Place, Inc., presented a congratulatory message from County Chief Executive Dan Onorato that read in part: “I am sorry that I am unable to join you on this exciting day. When you read this letter, I will be on an airplane returning home from a 10-day trade mission to China…Many of our Jail’s visitors are children of inmates, and their wait can be long. The Family Activity Center will help to make their visit a more comfortable and positive one. I want to thank the Jail Collaborative, an extraordinary group of department heads who have revolutionized correction services here in Allegheny County.”
A County proclamation designated April 21, 2007 as “Family Activity Center Day” in Allegheny County and congratulated the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation for its vital partnership with the Allegheny County Jail.
According to PCGF Board President Jane Burger, 7000 children in Allegheny County currently are separated from one or both parents.
“Most of the 35,000 adults arrested in Allegheny County last year are parents. And so are most of the 20,000 men and women who went to Jail,” she said. “Behind these astounding statistics are the faces of many thousand children who are left behind. I am deeply grateful to all who care for and about these children.”
Following the welcoming remarks, several members of faith communities took part in a blessing service to mark the official opening of the center. Participants included Rev. Ronald Edward Peters, Director, Metro-Urban Institute, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; Maj. Robert Reel, Divisional Commander, Salvation Army; Pastor Lynn Yeso, Director of Chaplaincy, Allegheny County Jail; Kadir Gunduz, Director of Islamic Center of Pittsburgh; Rev. Shawn Drummond, Protestant Chaplain, Allegheny County Jail; and Fr. Malcolm McDonald, Catholic Chaplain, Allegheny County Jail.
The service included a musical performance by Judge Cheryl L. Allen and Judge Kim Berkeley Clark of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The Neighborhood Youth Outreach Program Musical Ensemble also performed during the blessing ceremony.
“The Family Activity Center is all about ‘connecting’ with others,” said Warden Rustin. “It has increased awareness of the ‘Children of Prisoners’ initiative, and it has provided opportunities for many individuals and groups to become involved. On behalf of all the children who will visit the Family Activity Center, I thank all who have helped to make this dream a reality.”
For information on joining this initiative, contact PCGF at 412-434-1665. To volunteer at the Family Activity Center, contact Shirlene Jones at 412-391-1013.
Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation
PCGF conducted a two-year study – “Children of Incarcerated Parents” – as the initial phase of its current initiative to mobilize community support for children of prisoners.
The 2005 and 2006 “Reports to the Community” are posted in the Reports & Media section of this website. The report is also available by calling PCGF at 412-434-1665 or e-mailing a request to email@example.com.
The Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation is devoted solely to promoting the mental health and optimal development of children from birth through age 12 who reside in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Established in 1982, the Foundation is the successor to the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center, which conducted research, training, and direct psychiatric services for children for more than a half century.