Baby Beginnings Program

Our program benefits previously incarcerated single moms and their children by giving them resources to help sustain the family unit.

Photo of Carol Wellman
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

We started this program as a way to provide needed resources to single moms just getting out of prison who had their babies or were pregnant while they were in. We became very concerned when we often heard that the women had to resort to prostitution in order to provide basic needs for their babies, so we thought that if we had a program that can help fill those needs, then we would be able to assist the women while also helping them troubleshoot challenges they may be having in their re-entry

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Indiana

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Indiana

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

All of Indiana

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We are trying to address the impact that incarceration has on children and more specifically the family unit. This problem continues to exist as there are less services for families to access and more criminal behavior due to poverty which sabotages the efforts single moms have in raising their children. When a mother is incarcerated the bonding process is interrupted and children suffer. When the mother is released she is easily overwhelmed.

The Baby Beginnings Program provides vouchers for the moms to trade in for clothing, formula, baby accessories along with needed resources for single mothers who are pregnant or who just had a baby while they were incarcerated. If we help the moms by mentoring them and providing resources, then we will be able to help the children long term and may even prevent the moms from committing crimes and returning to jail/prison and keep the family intact and growing.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Criminal Justice
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

domestic violence, prostitution, sex trafficking

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

I have been in contact with and presented the program to pregnant and new mothers at the Indiana Womens Prison as well as delivered vouchers to them. They have a special program called the Wee Ones Nursery for these moms in order to be able to bond with their children. The Baby Beginnings program allows us to follow up with these mothers and help them to stay stable on the outside by providing needed resources and making sure they are doing what they need to; to ensure the safety and stability of their children. We are contacting area recovery houses and halfway houses as well as doing presentations at churches, hospitals and programs where it is likely that new mothers may be reaching out for help.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

This is a new program. We just located a church who has donated space for us to run our program as the parent organization My Sister's Place is temporarily displaced. We hope to be able to continue working at the church and providing this service in the community as well as being able to replicate it so that all areas can serve their communities in this way. Many organizations provide basic necessities, but we believe ours will not only help us serve the children but also help us to identify those families that need the most help. When the woman comes in with her voucher she will be able to interact with other women (either former clients/volunteers/interns) and we will be utilizing a questionnaire that helps us see what services are needed and how they are utilizing the skills they have in keeping the family intact.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • less than $1k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Most of the stuff we get comes from donations in and around the community. We only keep stuff that is in good working order and neat and clean. We would like to subsidize what we get with items that make sense, like car seats, diapers and formula. Things that food stamps don't pay for. We currently utilize as many free resources as are available to us, but sometimes we need to purchase things.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

This problem is minimally addressed in organizations. Many people don't like to work with people who have been incarcerated; they feel that women deserve the treatment they get from being incarcerated. What people don't realize is that the children are the ones who suffer. They are moved around from home to home, they suffer loss, confusion, anger, instability and are prone to having problems in school, with behavior, trust issues. Literally they often become juvenile delinquents, their souls longing for a connection to someone who cares about them. We can stop this by providing early support

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The prisons that are working to keep families intact are the ones who are championing this issue. They are finally recognizing that there are many women who will do better if given resources on how to care for their children properly; how important that bond is in the beginning for the growth and development of their children. They are learning that their own lives had similar starts and they are realizing that the cycle of criminal behavior can stop with them.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Grantstation member


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Auerbach

There are social issues high on the national consciousness, like homelessness and veteran care, and there are social issues that are not -- like incarcerated mothers. I love how your project focuses on this neglected population.

While providing basic needs is certainly invaluable, I believe a self-sufficiency element to Baby Beginnings (path to employment?) would benefit your project immensely.

Photo of Carol Wellman

The Baby Beginnings (BB) program is basically "the carrot"-- something to get their attention while they involve themselves in the program by showing up. The program allows for each participant to stay involved for up to 5 years--and during that time we can help them troubleshoot barriers to self-sufficiency.  Many of the girls we work with at My Sister's Place we have helped with self-employment--cleaning offices, cooking jobs, child care etc. so that they were able to stay at home with their own children. But many want jobs but have no skills. To that end we have gathered some employers in the community who have agreed to take on some of the women for job training as well as to employ them in commission type work--which then translates into mentorship, building skills in customer service and working on their own self-esteem to  develop appropriate responses to the outside world.  Also, to help support the NPO, I started a for-profit venture last year selling a product in the community and have given women the opportunity to learn skills such as selling, marketing, building a customer base.  They also have opportunities to make extra money on the side selling at events, which gives them increased exposure to community work.  I have a tendency to encourage volunteer work with them as a way to heal themselves and meet other people who can help develop them.  I work with them and show them things about giving back-- no matter what you do in life--helping others, helps them!

Photo of Michael Auerbach

*thumbs up*

Photo of Karla Mitchell

Doug Gould  makes a good point about employment and self- sufficiency.  It is critical to restore that independence. Often times, imprisonment breeds discouragement and hopelessness.  I'm very interested to understand the impact of this head start on recidivism - I hope that's a measure your capture in your impact evaluation - staying with the participants long enough for them to fully bloom. Thank you for your work!

Photo of Doug Gould

Great program for a neglected population! As I understand it, you provide non-SNAP supplies and support to recently incarcerated women with infants. Have you considered connecting them with job training or employment support? That is often the biggest hurdle for someone with a criminal record. I would be interested to see how you plan to measure your impact once the program is up and running. Best of luck.

Photo of Carol Wellman

Hi--Thanks for the message-- The Baby Beginnings program is part of the non-profit My Sister's Place--we originally started out in 2008 with a transitional house for 6 women who were released from prison. We did that for a few years and during that time we evolved into providing employment resources as well as training for other jobs that they can do for self-employment. We continue that work today and only recently added the BB program which is to address the needs of single female heads of household who were pregnant while incarcerated and/or had their babies while they were incarcerated but ready to get out within 18 months.  While this is proving to be a smaller population, we are looking at introducing the program to other needy women who are single heads of household.  The scope is to help the children stay in stable homes while providing resources to these moms so that they do not end up in prison or cause themselves to be separated from their children thus causing attachment issues which would have the snowball effect of children doing poorly in school and ultimately becoming juvenile delinquents. I hope to get the IU School of Social Work research class in Bloomington to help with devising a collection tool for the data needed to track the "other" women as i already have the tool for the women who have been previously incarcerated.