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INSPIRE: Maryland girl writes book about father's incarceration

Courtesy of Strempek family

A 13-year-old Crofton, Maryland, author has traveled as far away as New Zealand sharing her book, “Everyone Makes Mistakes.”

It’s dedicated to her dad. She wrote it while he was in jail. The book, now a source of inspiration to other kids with incarcerated parents.

“Dear Dad, when I heard the news, I couldn't stop crying. I thought a person like you would never go to jail. I know you and Mommy are divorced; she still cried anyway."

That was the first letter a heartbroken Madison Strempek wrote to her dad. He was locked up for a burglary.

The pictures in book were very personal,” Strempek said. “I drew them when dad first went to jail.

“I felt so embarrassed, but now that I’ve shared it I feel empowered like I’m making a difference.”

Strempek and her mom looked for resources to help kids in the position but couldn't find much. So Strempek decided to be the difference and wrote a book to help other kids with incarcerated parents make sense of the separation.

Her volunteer work earned her the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Award – an honor only 10 young people overall in the country received.

“I never thought my story would bring me this far, and I’m just glad I can share it with the world and let children of incarcerated parents know that they are not alone,” Strempek said.

Strempek says writing “Everyone Makes Mistakes: Living With My Daddy In Jail” was therapeutic, turning her personal pain into an opportunity to call for action. She’s an advocate for criminal justice reform.

In 2016, she was invited to speak at the White House. And her dad was proud.

“He loves my book,” Strempek said. “When he was in jail, at his work release place, everyone knew who I was because they all read my book.”

Strempek's dad is now out of jail, and the two have a good relationship.

Strempek plans to make the purpose of her book part of her life's work. She notes, for instance, even visitation isn’t kid friendly, which is something she would like to change.

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