First Lady Emphasizes Importance of Community-Based Services for Females Following Incarceration

First Lady Frances Wolf reiterated the importance of community-based programs for female reentrants and the challenges faced by women following incarceration. The first lady visited with Recovering Mothers with Newborns (ReNew)Milagro House and HDC MidAtlantic, three Lancaster-based programs that provide services to women with substance use disorder (SUD) or experiencing homelessness, who also have criminal histories.

“In our conversations with reentry advocates, we continue to hear about the importance of local programming in meeting the needs of reentrants,” said First Lady Wolf. “I commend ReNew, Milagro House, and HDC MidAtlantic for confronting the various obstacles that have historically hindered women’s ability to reestablish their lives after incarceration. Programs like these are improving outcomes for female reentrants by proactively creating opportunities that position them to prioritize their health, their education, and their families, and to positively contribute to the community at large.”

The first lady started the day with ReNew, a prevention program of Bethany Christian Services that supports expectant mothers with a history of substance use who are also incarcerated. Mrs. Wolf attended the graduation ceremony for ReNew’s most recent group of women and remarked on the women’s strength and dedication to themselves and their families.

“Overcoming addiction, incarceration, and intergenerational trauma is no easy feat,” said Jamie Minick, assistant branch director of Bethany Christian Services of Central Pennsylvania. “We are so proud of these mothers who have worked hard to start a new chapter in their lives for themselves and for their children.”

ReNew was established in 2019 in response to the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania and its impact on women, children, and families. The program provides specialized case management and wraparound support services for incarcerated mothers, allowing them to attain positive, life-changing behaviors in a sustainable way. Their process includes identifying program-eligible women and screening them upon entry into Lancaster County Prison (LCP); conducting an assessment to identify each woman’s needs; coordinating treatment prior to her release from LCP; providing a continuum of care up to one year after the birth of the child; and providing recovery support. Seventy percent of the mothers who have entered the program have graduated.

Then, Mrs. Wolf visited Milagro House, a program that provides education, housing and support services for women and their children who would otherwise be experiencing homelessness. Education is the underpinning of the Milagro House program; it is the foundation on which women can obtain a job at a family-sustaining wage, stabilizing their families over the long term. In addition to helping women obtain their high school equivalency and/or post-secondary degree, Milagro House provides a holistic scaffolding support that focuses on life skills (budgeting, parenting, nutrition and healthy relationships) customized case management and post-program assistance to support each woman’s individualized journey to independence. Currently, about a quarter of the women at Milagro House have a nonviolent criminal record.