A prison cell separates Tanesha Davis from her two children. However, for just a moment, they feel like they're face to face.
Hillsborough County has the state's second highest rate of children whose parents are incarcerated and moms who are behind bars. It's the reason they relaunched their video chatting program, under the guidance of Abe Brown Ministries.
They say this gives hope to both the mother and her children.
"Anytime you can help a mother maintain and sustain a relationship with her child, that mother's gonna be less likely to do something to breach that relationship once again," explained Robert Blount, the president of Abe Brown Ministries.
Sarina Multoa has learned the hard way. The 26-year-old mother has been away from her son for eight months.
"When he comes to visit me, he's really shy and stuff and that's not like him. Like, I see a big difference in him since I've been gone."
"I miss you," she tells him through the monitor. "I miss you too," he responds with his small voice.
The challenges are even deeper when dealing with older children.
"We lost hope. When she went away, we lost hope," said 21-year-old Tony Williams.
His mother Tonjeta Jones is behind bars but will be released this summer. In the meantime, her three children struggle.
"I understand that, son," she says. "But now you're grown up, you gotta stand up and be a man and living in the streets and being in the streets, you're gonna end up right here where I'm at."
That's the one message they believe these mothers will send to their children -- to help break the cycle not become another statistic.
"My personal experience, what I've really learned is to not even go that way," said Tony, "To do everything possible to stay from going that way."
It's also a constant reminder of what they have waiting for them once they come out, in hopes that they'll never end up behind bars again.
Tonjeta tells her children, "Just keep praying and have faith. You gotta have faith."
Abe Brown Ministries was founded as a result of the problem of young men ending up in jail after choosing the wrong path. This latest program to help women and their children is funded through state grants and donations to the organization. This month, Abe Brown Ministries received the community leadership award from the USF Area Community Civic Association, recognizing the tremendous efforts of the program.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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