Blagojevich family faces years of separation

December 6, 2011 10:00:00 PM PST
Former governor Rod Blagojevich's daughters will spend at least 12 years apart from their father once he begins his prison term.

Beyond the shock of Wednesday's sentence, Amy and Annie Blagojevich will soon be among the tens of thousands of Illinois children with a parent incarcerated.

Devin Clark, 10, knows what that is like.

Clark and his younger sister were just babies when their mother was sent to prison. They live with their grandmother and now visit their mother once a week in transitional housing.

"It kind of like destroys my heart to not live with my mom," says Clark.

Each weekday, they are students at a unique West Side school. World Language Academy of Scholars is a small private school mainly for children of the incarcerated.

The school's principal says the Blagojevich girls may not have the financial hardship of some of the other children of prisoners, but she says the loss is real for any child missing the emotional and social support of mom or dad.

"Things that he would have done as the man in the household, he's no longer there to do, and it's not just as a provider," said Margo Martin of World Language Academy of Scholars.

Charles Perry wished he could have been there for his children. Incarcerated for 19 years, Perry sees the scars his absence left on his children. Perry now volunteers with several organizations to support returning inmates and their families.

"This is one of the reasons I'm out here, putting myself on the line each day, is because everybody is affected, the whole family," said Perry, who works with the Community Renewal Society.

Back at the World Language Academy, Clark has advice for any child going through this circumstance.

"It's gonna be all right, because I had the same problem as well, and all you need to do is pray every night and every day," said Clark.

Clark hopes to one day live with his mom. For now, he is loved, and has support from other children who also by no fault of their own are missing an incarcerated parent.

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