Operation Open Arms connecting expecting inmates with foster families
LOUISVILLE, KY. (WHAS11) – A local group is working to find foster families for children born behind bars.
This is a need in every community, in every state.
As we speak there are at least 12 women at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women at Pewee Valley who are expecting.
Under state law children born behind bars in Kentucky aren't allowed to stay with their mothers, even at minimum security prisons, so that's where groups like Operation Open Arms step in.
At a small, East Louisville office, new doors are being opened every day.
“That can be a challenge,” said Jennifer Conway. “Finding families, having enough people in the community who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and help a child in need.”
Operation Open Arms works to take children who are born behind bars and find them foster families.
“It doesn’t matter where a child is born, or who a child is born to,” said Conway. “Every child deserves a chance.”
Sharon Neville has fostered eight children through Operation Open Arms.
“It was always we’re going to help another family,” said Neville.
Neville was drawn to the program because it was different than any state-run foster options.
“We’re able to have contact with the moms, and allow updates,” said Conway. “We update them on their child, how the child is doing. Our families are very good at that.”
“We got to know the mother very well taking the child for visits, talking with her on the phone, writing to her,” said Neville. “We got to connect. We got to mentor.”
Four of the children that Sharon fostered returned to their biological parents, though she admits not all kids are that lucky.
“The children who remained in our home are reconnected with their biological families,” said Neville. “That was always encouraged by us to keep that healthy network available.”
Now, she’s challenging more families to step up and answer the challenge of Operation Open Arms.
“Parents, in general, want what’s best for our children,” said Conway. “If we’re not able to do that, knowing someone else can step in and provide that love, provide that care, is really what it’s all about.”
Operation Open Arms does 100 percent of the training for families interested in the program.
It is worth noting that Operation Open Arms receives no state funding, and children aren’t wards of the state.
If you're interested in being a foster or donating to their cause, click here.