Each year for the past 15 years, hundreds of children from Orange County and elsewhere in California are reunited for an emotional afternoon with their incarcerated mothers at various state detention facilities as part of a unique and successful ministry called Get On the Bus.
More than 1,000 children and their caregivers boarded 21 buses throughout California and traveled to the California Institution for Women in Corona on May 2 and to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla on May 8. A third trip is scheduled to the Folsom Women’s Facility on July 8.
Get On the Bus allows children who may not have seen their mothers in a year to “see, touch and speak” to them, says Sister Suzanne Jabro, the founder of the Center for Restorative Justice Works (CRJW), the nonprofit organization that operates the program.
“These children did nothing wrong,” she says. “They just want to be held and loved by their mother, and they need to know she is safe. We have a responsibility to bring these families together. A child needs to see his or her reflection in a mother’s eye.”
The CRJW provides free transportation for the children and caregivers, travel and comfort bags for the long bus rides, a family photograph for each mother and child, and meals for the day. On the return trip, children are offered post-event counseling and receive teddy bears with personalized letters from their mothers.
The program is funded by donations from individuals, churches, schools, businesses, foundation grants and civic organizations.