Local Non-Profit Works With Kids Whose Parents Are Incarcerated

It also assists these inmates when they get out of jail.


Frederick, Md (KM). There about 300 inmates at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, and many have children. The Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership was set up more than 16 years ago to work with these kids.

Founder and Executive Director Shari Scher, whose worked in  the field of early childhood education for Frederick County Public Schools for many years, says many of these children often experience abandonment, loneliness and shame when their mothers or fathers are in prison. That may include following in their parents’ footsteps and ending up in jail themselves.

Speaking recently on “Mid-Maryland Live” on WFMD, Scher said she has a lot in common with these children. “I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in a very loving family. Both my parents went to college. I was very blessed. And then my dad made a bad choice. I was very, very, very close to my dad, and we all adored him. His bad choice gave him some time, and I became one of the kids,” she says.

Scher says she didn’t speak about that until she was 55. “And at that point, I was doing a speaking engagement about COIPP {Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership} and it struck me that  if  I didn’t come clean. I was no more than–for want of a better word–a missionary to people who may think what does she know. She doesn’t look like us,” says Scher.

Among the services offered by COIPP to kids a lending and giving library at the jail where children can take books on their way home, or look at books while waiting they’re waiting to go in and visit with their parent. There are sharing fairs at the Detention Center four to six times a year where children receive backpacks, hygiene supplies, brand new and clean underwear and brand new shoes. Scher says this turns an emotional time into a fun time.

There are also scholarships for the caregivers who take care of the children while their parents are in jail, along with emergency gift cards. She also says she holds workshops for caregivers so they can  help children deal with this loss  in their family.  “Because this is loss for them” says Scher.

There are also programs for inmates who are ready to get out, or have already been released. “Every Friday, we meet with people who just got out of jail or in drug rehab and do a program that helps with  reconnecting,” says Scher.

“And I’m about to start working in the jail once a month to help people who are leaving to talk about the issues involving reconnection,” she says. “We also have scholarships for those folks who might go back to FCC part time.”

Scher says many parents who end up in jails or in prisons were arrested for drug-related offenses. “If a woman is in jail, the average age  of her children is eight years of age. Now it’s lower because a lot of young people are getting involved in drugs, selling, being picked up,” she says.

In a few cases, says Scher, some of these women who are in jail are pregnant. “It is not all that  odd to have a pregnant woman in my group because it’s hitting the younger people. So we’ve got babies being born and we’ve got to swoop them up and give them support,” she says.

Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership is an all volunteer group and any donations or grants it receives goes directly to the children and their parents.

In the end, Scher says any child whose parents are behind bars are not necessarily going to have a criminal history when they get older. “If your parents are in jail, it doesn’t mean you’re going to go to jail,” she says. “A lot of kids think  that. A lot of people in the community think that. But if you have support, and you have people who love you, and includes your parents in jail, there’s a good chance you’re going to be successful.”


By Kevin McManus