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When Mom Or Dad Is In Jail, Thanksgiving Can Be Tough

Bree Fowler

On Thanksgiving, families across Pittsburgh will come together to share a meal and celebrate. But for children whose parents are incarcerated, the holidays can be an especially difficult time, said Tia Staples, co-owner of 7 Senses Catering and Event Services.

Staples has organized a Thanksgiving meal for children whose parents are behind bars.

"It's hard trying to raise kids through phone calls and letters and jail visits," she said. "Its not enough for the kids, and we want them to know there's people out here who support you."

At the Wednesday dinner, which will take place at co-working space The Shop in Homewood, the children will be able to take pictures and make holiday cards to send to their incarcerated parents.

Twenty six kids are expected to attend the event. Staples said she identified the children through friends who are social workers and social media blasts. She said feedback has been extremely positive.

"The response was unbelievable," Staples said. "We have a variety of diversities and ages of kids ranging from 6 to 17."

This is not Staples' first time serving vulnerable populations at the holidays. In prior years, her catering company has prepared holiday meals for the elderly and people experiencing homelessness. This year, she wanted to do something that hit closer to home. Staples said her business partner returned recently from being incarcerated, so she saw up close the struggles of parenting from within jail.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, there were 49,504 people living inside state correctional institutions as of Oct. 31, 2018. A 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Justice estimated 2.3 percent of children under 18 years old have at least one incarcerated parent.