A Second Chance at Motherhood: Thriving after Reentry

Did you know that 81% of women in the Texas state corrections system are mothers? What happens after a mom is released from prison? Many vulnerable women fall right back into the same unhealthy patterns that lead to repeated incarceration unless someone steps in to provide loving, practical reentry support. Here’s how you can partner with The Way Back to help women achieve a second chance at motherhood after reentry. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Take care of Mom first so she can parent from a place of strength and stability.
  2. Help her establish a safe, peaceful home where her family can thrive.
  3. Equip her to secure employment and provide for herself and her family.
  4. Provide ongoing 1:1 support for reunification and positive relationships.
  5. Join us in providing a second chance at motherhood after reentry.

Taking care of mom first

Before a mother can take care of her family, she needs to ensure her own survival. Many mothers leave prison with only the clothes on their backs. At the time of intake, 96% of The Way Back’s clients had an initial Reentry Self-Sufficiency Assessment score of “Crisis” or “At Risk.” Imagine the immense struggle to survive without falling back into dysfunctional patterns. 

To emerge from crisis and gain self-sufficiency, a woman first needs food, clothing, a safe place to sleep, and transportation. Then, she needs a way to access her vital documents, such as a state ID, birth certificate, and social security card, so she can prove her identity and apply for medical aid, social services, and employment. In addition, she must keep the terms of her parole, which may include rigorous programs such as SAFEP with frequent, mandatory meetings.

The Way Back provides these vital reentry support services for women in crisis so they can not only survive and keep parole but thrive and become fully self-sufficient. 

Establishing a safe home

Once a mother’s urgent, basic needs are met, she can turn her attention to building a stable life for herself and her children. Establishing safe, secure housing and a way to pay living expenses is the most important factor to a woman seeking self-sufficiency and reunification with her family. Without a safe place to live and a way to pay rent and other living expenses, women remain dangerously vulnerable and overly dependent on friends and relatives for survival.

At the time of intake, 89% of The Way Back’s clients are in the Extremely Low-Income Limit Category (30% of Area Median Income), and 50% of clients do not have secure housing and are either homeless, in shelters, or in short-term, 30-day housing assignments with no income to fund housing past 30 days and are at risk of eviction.

We partner with T.A.M.A.R., Angels Recovery House, and other local organizations to help women find safe, clean, and affordable housing, furniture, the deposit for their first apartment, and rent money to get started as they secure employment and learn how to manage money.

Securing employment

Women need a way to pay their living expenses so they can become self-sufficient and capable of caring for their families. Most previously incarcerated individuals reentering the community have the potential to become productive members of society. They just need support to get started. 

The Way Back’s case managers help our clients identify their strengths and skills, set short-term and long-term goals, and find job opportunities. We advocate for our clients and help them expand their professional networks to find not just a job, but a career that will lift them out of poverty and help them build a sustainable life.

The average monthly income of our clients at program intake is $183/month, and the average monthly income for our clients at program exit is $2,295/month, a 1,250% increase. Finding employment is critical to a mother’s ability to stay out of prison, become stable, and provide for herself and her family.  

After serving a couple of years at the SAFEP facility, I was introduced to The Way Back program. I met Miss Wilson [my case manager], and it was uphill from there. I was a culinary chef for over 20 years, however, due to my charges, I really felt hopeless in that area. I didn’t know how I was gonna get back on top. I was living in transitional housing. But Miss Wilson gave me quite a few job referrals and resources to find proper housing with the Angel House. She also helped me obtain my ID, which led me into getting my driver’s license. I hadn’t had a driver’s license in 20 years. Due to The Way Back program, the uplifting words and positive affirmations they fed into my spirit, I was able to obtain all of those things. I went from living in a sober living house to managing a sober living house. I currently am a student at Dallas Baptist University. The Way Back program helped me fill out my FAFSA, and led me in the direction of going back to school.”

- from Kelly R.’s story

Family reunification

When mothers are incarcerated, family relationships often carry a great deal of strain resulting from the circumstances that led to incarceration in addition to the challenge of managing life without mom while she was away. As a result, repairing those relationships may require extra patience, perspective, and positive thinking as moms seek reunification with their families after reentry.

The Way Back helps mothers navigate complex emotions and relational challenges by providing 1:1 support for each client as she rebuilds relationships with her children, their caregivers, and other family members. 

Our staff members are just a text or phone call away, and our clients benefit from having a caring person to talk to any time, knowing they are not alone in figuring out life after reentry. We provide a safe place for mothers to be honest about the challenges they face with reunification, and we empower them with personal goal-setting, mentoring, and a positive perspective as they learn to use the available tools to rebuild those relationships. 

The Way Back program paved the way for me to gain my life back, not just to where I used to be, but to where it should be. After living a life that was not so positive for four years, hardcore…The Way Back program led me back to finding the right path for my life. I have four kids: 24, 23, 18, and 15. When I was in prison, they wanted nothing to do with me, but now, due to the fact that I am making the right decision on a day-to-day basis, I am part of their lives. I have three grandbabies on the way right now, and I’m part of the pregnancies. My family has accepted me back into the fold. I’m able to pour out everything that God put in me when I was in prison. All the things that once held me in bondage, those are the very stepping stones that are bringing me to my next level in life.”

- from Kelly R.’s story

Ongoing support

There is no magic wand that can instantly turn a woman’s life into a happily-ever-after story. However, a woman whose basic needs are met, who has emerged from crisis to stability, and who receives ongoing support gains the power to transform her own life. Total transformation takes time and dedication, and The Way Back is committed to the entire process.

We provide support and empowerment for our clients from start to finish, addressing not only their physical needs but also their emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. From the moment our clients reenter society until they make it off parole, thriving and confidently standing on their own, our case managers provide 1:1 support, often becoming lifelong mentors. 

Our staff understands that a stable, caring relationship and a listening ear are some of the most important resources women need to change their lives. As our client Kelly described, “The Way Back program is set apart from other programs that I’ve found here in the Dallas Area because not only are they a positive resource venue, but they’re also a positive spiritual venue. They’re there even if you need someone just to vent to.”

We care for the whole person - body, mind, and spirit - so she is empowered to build a stable life, reunite with her family, and contribute to her community in positive ways.

Join us in supporting moms

Did you know that you can help formerly incarcerated women emerge from crisis, achieve security and self-sufficiency, and receive a second chance at motherhood? If you are passionate about empowering women, reuniting families, or reducing recidivism in Texas, we invite you to join us in providing reentry support. Here are two main ways you can make a difference right now.

Volunteer your time

Every person, including you, has skills and expertise to share in service to women in our community. Here are some ideas for how you can help:

Become a mentor

Do you love listening to people, providing encouragement, and connecting people with resources to help them grow? Whether your passion is personal finance, shopping on a budget, cooking, parenting, writing resumes, cleaning, or whatever YOU love, our clients can benefit from it. By volunteering your time as a mentor with The Way Back, you will equip and empower women with new skills to help them become self-sufficient, stay out of prison, and thrive.

Become an employer

Do you own or manage a business? You can volunteer to become a Second Chance Employer for our clients and help women secure stable employment, escape poverty, and build a financial future for their families. You will rarely find an employee more eager to learn, prove themselves, and work hard than a previously incarcerated person who has been given a second chance at life.

Become an assistant

Do you love quiet, behind-the-scenes work such as planning, organizing, data entry, communications, accounting, and project management? You can serve The Way Back’s clients by volunteering your expertise as an office/administrative assistant.

Become a teacher

Are you a compassionate person who enjoys leading group discussions and witnessing group members discover life-changing insights? You can volunteer as one of our course facilitators/teachers who goes into the prisons and leads groups of incarcerated women to start learning how to see themselves differently and how to thrive after reentry.

Become a…

Do you have a different skill or area of expertise that can help previously incarcerated women thrive? We want to hear about it! 

Donate funds

Operating a successful non-profit reentry program like The Way Back takes a significant amount of money, and we rely on donations, grants, and other generous funding to provide high-quality services to our clients. By becoming a donor, you will equip us to continue providing 1:1 support to women in crisis, empowering them to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society, capable of providing for their families and giving back to the community.