Meet the 25-year-old CEO helping kids with parents behind bars

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Storyteller Erin Valle catches up with Wandjell Browning, CEO of the Freedom Child Foundation, about growing up with incarcerated parents in Champaign-Urbana. Browning founded the non-profit in 2020 as a way to advocate for the 5.4 million U.S. kids with one or both parents behind bars.

More from the Freedom Child Foundation:

The Freedom Child Foundation aims to provide support and resources to adolescents between the ages 5 and 17 who have one or both parents incarcerated. Our goal is to ensure that every child who wants to stay connected to their incarcerated parent, will always have the means to do so. By ensuring family connection through phone calls, letter writing, and visitation, The Freedom Child Foundation hopes to help adolescents maintain a relationship with their incarcerated parent. The Freedom Child Foundation hopes to reduce the statistic that adolescents of incarcerated families will eventually become victims of incarceration.

Many adolescents get lost in a legal system while their parent(s) are incarcerated. This can be due to an overworked Child Protective Services employee, or caregivers who lack the resources to meet the adolescent’s need during their troubling time.  In extreme cases, caregivers simply do not care enough for the adolescents to attempt to find resources that will help them overcome and work through their difficulties. Because of this, many adolescents lose connection with their parents when their parents are incarcerated. The Freedom Child Foundation wants to help adolescents maintain connection with their parent(s) by providing finances for phone calls, stationery for letters, and/or transportation for visitation. We aim to serve and empower children during this pivotal time in their journey by providing means to continue communicating with their incarcerated parent, while also providing crucial resources for personal growth, development, and mental stability. We live in a very punitive society that will ensure that correctional facilities never expire. Through this foundation, we have an opportunity to work together to ensure that our youth will be able to stay connected to their parent(s) as well as not fall victim to various traps and pathways that lead to incarceration.

To learn more about becoming a Freedom Child or to connect with the foundation click HERE.

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