2015-10-01 / Giving Back

Photo Patch connects children to incarcerated parents

By D. K. Christi

Antoine Patton with Photo Patch participants. 
Contributed Antoine Patton with Photo Patch participants. Contributed When a parent goes to jail, the entire family suffers. Children of incarcerated adults often must go weeks or even months without seeing their moms or dads. In this absence of contact, letter writing becomes invaluable.

Antoine Patton knows this truth all too well. “In my youth, a member of my family was incarcerated,” said Patton. “I wrote him a few letters and was glad to receive some. It wasn’t until his sentence ended and he told me how much he appreciated my letters that I realized their importance.”

Patton is the founding board director for the Photo Patch Foundation, which helps connect children to their incarcerated parents.

While working as a software designer in New York, Patton’s past met his present as he thought of a new idea: What if there were a software program that could help connect children to their parents serving prison sentences?

Photo Patch is a software program that collects information from the child and the parent and keeps both current. Through local youth organization partners, children can get free access to a computer where they can pen a letter. Photo Patch prints and mails the letters and attachments. Children receive responses at the organization or their home.

Board members from New York to Palm Beach volunteer time and resources. Each contributes a special skill from website and software design to meeting with organization partners to putting Photo Patch into practice. Locally, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Hour Children, Children’s Network of Southwest Florida and Osborne Association have already added Photo Patch to their rosters of resources for children, and many other children’s charities are hoping to add the program soon.

“Nearly 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one incarcerated parent today,” says Patton, who resides in Southwest Florida. These children often have minimal to zero communication with an incarcerated parent, which is hard on both parties. Maintaining or beginning a relationship may help contribute to self-esteem and better life choices.

According to Patton, “We all know what photos are, but the founders of Photo Patch know first-hand that photos can ‘patch’ wounds of hurt, bitterness, distance, regret and loss. Photos … are an easier way for children to quickly communicate their feelings, wishes and growth…We ‘patch’ the kids right in.”

Photo Patch Foundation Charity Fundraiser

Saturday, October 10, 2015 from 11a.m. to 2p.m.
HeadPinz Entertainment Center in Estero

Twelve sponsored teams of six (four adults and two children of incarcerated parents) will compete in bowling and laser tag. Sponsorship opportunities and more info at www.photo-patch.org

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