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GEM - Rebuilding the mother-daughter bond while breaking the cycle of incarceration

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Julianna Morano’s article in the Dallas News talks about how the GEM (Girls Embracing Mothers) program helps currently or formerly incarcerated women rebuild the connection with their daughters.

Rebuilding the mother-daughter bond

The GEM program was founded in 2013 in Texas by Brittany K. Barnett after her own mother's incarceration. She wanted to form a community that supports and empowers girls who are struggling with the same problem. Girls who are separated from their mothers have an extremely difficult time forming a bond with them, and they might feel isolated from their surroundings with the fear of being judged. The program not only aims to rebuild the mother-daughter bond but aims to form a community where these girls can connect through their similar experiences.

“When girls succeed, so does society. I really want to empower women and girls impacted by the justice system to know that they matter. They are valued.” - says Barnett in Morano’s article

Angelica Zaragoza, the director of GEM, was already part of the program when she was incarcerated. She explains in Morano’s article, what a great impact the program had on her and her daughter’s life:

“Today, she counts on me. She depends on me. She turns to me for advice,” Zaragoza said. “We have a bond that’s beginning to be unbreakable, you know, even though it’s not perfect.”

Gem's two programs that aim to break the cycle of incarceration

  • Pearl Program: with the partnership of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Pearl Program offers transportation and enhanced visitation sessions once every month with the aim to lessen the impact of maternal separation. The participants are provided with art therapy and facilitated discussions with the goal to strengthen the mother-daughter relationship.

  • Diamond program: the Diamond Program provides education to the daughters. As described on GEM’s website the Diamond Program “aims to enhance self-esteem, develop leadership and communication skills, demonstrate proper etiquette, establish cognizance of wellness, teach social and life skills and instill moral values. The Diamond Program also strengthens the girls’ sense of civic engagement and awareness by offering them the opportunity to give back to the community through service.”

Challenges of reentry:

The article highlights that the program helped many women being part of their daughter’s lives. However, there are still many challenges that they have to face upon reentry. There is a need for a strong support system across the country, that helps formerly incarcerated people with housing, finding jobs, and reacclimatizing to society after they come home from prison. Having that support can highly reduce the rate of recidivism and change their lives forever.

Read Julianna Morano’s full article here:

Visit Girls Embracing Mothers website to learn more about their initiatives:

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