|BEST PRACTICE MODEL for Ex-Offender Reentry|
TLC, Inc. covers all the bases of needs in a comprehensive family program
I visited the Transitional Learning Center in Forest Hill, Texas and came away utterly impressed. What I was originally looking for was a service provider that helps ex-offender become reintegrated into society, but what I found first was crying babies, children of the incarcerated and drug abusers. Despite their crying, it was the best and most compassionate child care center and nurseries I had ever seen.
Altogether, there were about 70 children in this two-story education center, paid for by nickel and dime community donations- the poor financing the poor- through the diligent and tireless effort of Richelle Owens, who manages a multitude of incarcerate person’s service needs, while at the same time providing support for their families.
When I saw the nursery with baby beds and babies actually asleep in them, it brought tears to my eyes. They have only the bare minimums. But the baby cribs looked nice. In fact, in every room on the first floor, there were children of various age groups, sitting at blank desk with only pencil and paper. Richelle is still building capacity, but only by faith, and few funds. She hardly knows who is who among Fort Worthians, let alone the gift givers. So she frequent the churches asking for donations.
The rent is due soon, and she does not know where the money will come from, in order to continue renting this 28,000 square-foot facility. From new born to toddler to elementary, the kids have little more than pencil and paper to work with, and yet they appear to be contented with that.
All around, there are pieces of old donated stuff, including obsolete computers, but Rochelle makes the best of what she has. All of the classrooms are equipped with desks and chairs and tables- the best of the donated lot. But the computers are hand-me-down scrap and the children have nothing more than pin-ups on the wall to adorn and enrich their barren environment.
Seven year-olds up to about ten sit at workstations but with no computers, only pencil and paper and some old donated math books. But again, the children are content. This facility was more like a haven, it seems, when kids have nowhere else to go.
There is a feeding program and a nursing program staffed with a number of volunteers. Rochelle could use more professional volunteers and paid staff. The demand for services is great for at-risk families in the Tarrant County area.
The second floor is totally reserved for classroom space, some of which is nicely equipped with table and chairs and one television. Considering they opened to doors on this facility in August, the accomplishments of the center is nothing short of a miracle.
There is the 13-station On-the-Job-Training Employment Training Center classroom, where students are taught telephonic skills for telemarketing jobs, time management, work ethics, stress management, critical thinking, and computer literacy (if and when they acquire computers).
Then there is the Business Ethics Center classroom where students learn employment stabilization and career advancement skills. The Adult Learning Center classroom is devoted to teaching adult literacy, English as second language, GED, and college prep. Finally, there is the Financial Management classroom used to teach students how to manage their money, about budgeting and savings.
Other Ex-Offender Reentry service providers use Rochelle’s facilities for night classes. Soon there will be a Family Counseling Center. The Transitional Learning Center also operates several group homes for ex-offenders, substance abusers, and single mothers with incarcerated husbands. The living environment is easy and stress free. Each resident is coupled in a room, furnished and rent-free (subsidized by community churches), though sometime subsidies are spurious.
A CRY FOR HELP
Faith-based help (From “Working to slow prison’s revolving door”, Star-Telegram, September 13, 2007)
That faith-based support was apparent last month when Christ Chapel hosted a Success Celebration, put on by Tarrant County's Community Partnership Council, that honored ex-offenders who completed the terms of their parole. Church groups, community leaders, criminal justice employees and the families of ex-offenders came together to recognize those who made the changes needed to succeed outside prison.
CPC is one of the organizations working with the Tarrant County Reentry Council. It coordinates re-entry efforts with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's parole division and community groups, and provides mentoring to ex-offenders, said Richelle Owens, CPC chairwoman. It has about 40 mentors, Owens said; she wants to add 60 more by year's end.
CPC has 47 organizations involved in ex-offender re-entry, she said. The council provides services such as job forums and recovery program placement.
"CPC is there to provide resources outside of what TDCJ can provide," said Vicki Hallman, director of the Criminal Justice Department's Region II Parole Division in Dallas.
For More Information, Contact:
Richelle T. Owens, Program Director
Transitional Learning Centers-TLC
6901 Wichita Street
Forest Hill, Texas 76140
P O Box 330344
Fort Worth, Texas 76133-0344