SAN JACINTO (CBS) — There are 70,000 children in Southern California whose parents are incarcerated.
Statistics show that seven out of 10 of these children will follow in their parents’ path.
“You want to visit but you can’t see them. You want to visit but it’s so far away. It hurts but what can you do?” said 14-year-old Viviana, whose parents are in prison.
For nearly their entire lives, many of these children struggle with fear, anger and self-blame because a parent has been taken away.
A ranch in San Jacinto hopes to make a difference in these children’s lives by showing them they aren’t alone – and that they can overcome the odds and steer their future away from prison.
CBS2 spoke to several children of various ages who stay at Calicinto Ranch, a non-profit organization where grant money and donations help provide an annual two-week summer camp there. Organizers said the experience provides these children mentorship and friendships and guides them in gaining love, trust and self-esteem.
“I used to think when I grew up I would go to prison, that I’m destined to be,” said Viviana’s 17-year-old brother Isaias. “I thought it was normal how my father and some of my uncles are like that. A lot of people from my family are like that. But, now, I can see that you can overcome that.”
Sophia Pirelli, executive director of Calicinto Ranch Boys and Girls of Prisoners Foundation, said children of incarcerated parents are the real victims.
“The saying is, ‘Parents do the time and the kids do the hard time,’” Pirelli said. “So often they have it all inside of them. So, this is an opportunity to come together. They feel safe they feel loved.”
Fourteen-year-old Deshon said, “Not having a dad, it’s the worst feeling ever…. The Calicinto ranch, it’s like the funnest thing.”
“It shows there’s more people like me so that I don’t have that bad of a life,” said Deshon’s 18-year-old brother, Walter.
Aside from forging relationships with their peers the experience has shown participants that they can take control of their future.
“Stats show kids usually end up like their parents,” said Isaias, adding, “If you think that’s the way I’m going to end up I’m going to prove you wrong, and I’ll do better for myself.”
To read more on Calicinto Ranch go to www.calicintoranch.org.