LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Reuniting Children With Their Incarcerated Parents

We believe that children have the right to see, touch, and speak face-to-face with incarcerated parents. For years, our Get On The Bus program has provide free bus transportation and specialized family visits so that low-income children and their incarcerated parents could engage in bonding family activities, including sharing meals and playing games together. With COVID restrictions finally lifted across California prisons, we are reuniting children and parents who have not seen each other since the start of COVID.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Opportunities for People Who Have Been Incarcerated

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

On average, over 60% of mothers and fathers are sentenced to prisons more than 100 miles away from their families, and in rural locations that require a car to access. This makes it difficult or impossible for many low-income children and family members to visit to maintain contact or to begin a healing process while a parent is incarcerated. Get On The Bus has filled this gap for decades until the complete visitation shut down at the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) finally allowed in-person visits to resume in October 2022. The children who rely on Get On The Bus have not been able to see their parents in person for at least 30 months - or 2.5 years (March 2020 - October 2022), and for some, this wait will span a full 3 years by the time their scheduled visit day arrives. With in person visits possible, families can finally experience the joy and relief of being together again.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Get On The Bus makes it possible for low-income children to visit in person with their incarcerated parents. The visits enabled by participation in this program are unique; they are longer than standard permitted visits, and children and parents are allowed to participate in more bonding activities. Unlike during typical prison visits, incarcerated parents are allowed to move about freely. This means they can touch and hug their children as much as they want, they can play interactive games together, and parents can serve lunch to their children. Get On The Bus visits provide incarcerated parents the rare opportunity to parent their children. Photographs are taken with copies given to the parents (when permitted) and to the children, who receive the photo with a teddy bear "gift" from their parent. Get On The Bus removes multiple barriers to visitation. We provide free transportation regardless of the distance to the prison. Free meals and snacks are served, with overnight accommodations provided for trips that cannot be completed in one day. For months before visits can take place, our staff works with prison officials to secure visit dates and ensure that inmates are aware of our program and have the opportunity to sign up to participate. Finally, a key program component is helping children's guardians to receive security clearance. The complexity of this paperwork keeps many families from visiting, especially when English is not the family's native language.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

During the grant period: - Provide an estimated 40 bus trip visits across 12 state prisons for a projected 600 children, 300 caretakers and 300 incarcerated parents. - Assist approximately 900 family members and 300 incarcerated parents with the completion of required clearance paperwork. - Train approximately 200 Program Volunteers to assist with program delivery. - Maintain or recreate relationships with approximately 36 CDCR staff across prisons to ensure awareness of GOTB and to reinstate or continue program delivery across prisons. Long-term outcomes including healing and lower stress for children, lower recidivism rates for the incarcerated, and strengthened family connections. We are also proud to share that CDCR considers Get On The Bus a program that exemplifies The California Model - CDCR's work to transform its prison system to one based on the Norwegian Model, which is often cited as a successful approach to incarceration.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

"[Best part] is watching the kids run to and embrace their dad, and their happy faces looking up at him during the visit, in amazement that they are getting to see him again. It had been the first time they had seen him since he was arrested 2 1/2 years ago. 10/15 minute phone calls once a week and letters here and there just aren't enough. Kids need a hug from dad, to feel safe and reassured he's still there and still their dad." - Mother, October 2022 "We just want to thank the get on the bus program and volunteers for the opportunity to take my daughter and her little brother to see their dad. It was a heartwarming experience and something my daughter desperately needed. She is extremely close with her dad and him being suddenly taken from her was devastating. She needed the time with him and a reassuring hug to feel ok again. She never would have gotten that without the get on the bus program." - Mother, October 2022

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,200

Indirect Impact: 2,000