An estimated 2.7 million children in the United States have a parent in prison. Xieara (pronounced “Sierra”), a high school freshman from New York City, is one of them. Her mom, Destiny, 32, has been in and out of prison since Xieara was 2 years old. At first she was incarcerated closer to home. But she’s currently serving a five-year sentence in a medium-security prison in western New York, a seven-hour drive (or an hour and 20-minute flight followed by an hour drive) away.
Twice a year, Xieara is able to visit her mom by going on a trip organized by the Osborne This bus took Xieara to the prison, where a sign (right) displays rules for visitors. Association, a group that helps incarcerated parents and their kids stay connected. In December, Choices went along as she and 14 other kids (from toddlers to teens) made the emotional journey. Because of an unexpected detour on snow-covered roads, the visit was shorter than planned (three hours instead of four), but the group still fit in holiday-themed portraits, a huge lunch, and countless hugs. Here, Xieara tells her story.