ASX.TV: Brenda Ann Kenneally – “Hour Princess” (2011)

It was love that moved Rosa to follow her handsome boyfriend from the Dominican Republic to New York, and betrayal that sent her to jail, while he was set free. Rosa could barley understand the judge’s English words when he handed down the sentence that would take away her life for the next six years and end her relationship with her son, who had stayed behind.

Rosa met Sister Tisa in prison: Tisa routinely visited cells, one by one, as part of her work. Over a decade earlier, Tisa had founded Hour Children in Queens New York. She made it her ministry to keep incarcerated women and their children connected throughout the mother’s sentence. Sister Tisa had learned through experience that when this bond was broken, children were at risk of growing up in foster care and that increased the chances of them serving time in prison as they them selves aged. Children born to women during their time inside a correctional facility are usually institutionalized at birth.

Tisa’s job on the day she met Rosa was to find a temporary care- giver for newborns. Moya was another detainee. Her baby, Theresa, was her second child born in jail. The state of her mental health aggravated her addictions, making it more difficult to get clean and end the cycle of incarceration.

Baby Theresa was the second child born to Moya while she lived inside prison walls. Moya’s mental health challenges compounded her addiction and made it more difficult to get clean and end her cycle of incarceration. Rosa reported to Hour Children immediately after she was released and soon became baby Theresa’s “volunteer mother”.

Eight years have passed since Rosa and Theresa became a family. Moya has not been able to maintain a life without drugs, and in 2003 Rosa became Theresa’s legal guardian though she continues to take Theresa to visit her birth mother. Theresa is in school and has an extended family through Hour Children. The child has never had to spend a day in the foster care system and Rosa has been given a way to reinstate her place as a mother in the world. Rosa has since been able to reunite with her son from The Dominican Republic and has expanded their family once again by providing a home for another child born into the criminal justice system.

The growing family continues to live within the Hour Children Community in an apartment complex for women who have grown to independence.

Hour Princess is a small peek at just what a woman’s imagination can achieve. A woman imagined a way that people could be empowered instead of discarded, families could be created instead of destroyed.

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