U.S. Department of Justice

Children of Incarcerated Parents

Webinar on Promising and Innovative Practices

On June 3rd, 2015 the Urban Institute and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) hosted a live webinar, Promising and Innovative Practices for Children of Incarcerated Parents: Arrest through Pre-Adjudication.

The webinar is divided into four distinct, yet complementary, sessions that will be of interest to police departments, probation departments, jail administrators, and community-based service providers.

Session 1: Parental Arrest Protocols, 12:30 p.m.–2:00 p.m. EST
Focuses on protocols that police departments can use to manage the arrest of a parent to minimize the trauma and harm to their children.

Session 2: Family Impact Statements, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EST
Focuses on how probation departments can use family impact statements in their presentence investigation reports to account for the needs of family and children.

Session 3: Family-Focused Jail Services, 3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. EST
Focuses on a few family-focused programs and services that jail administrators can offer to parents in their jails to help them stay connected to their family and children.

Session 4: Successful Collaboration, 4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. EST
Provides information on how to collaboratively think about and address the many issues facing children of incarcerated parents, using a diverse group of interested stakeholders.

Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP): Arrest through Pre-Adjudication

The arrest of a parent can be traumatic for many children. As noted in a comprehensive review of research on children with incarcerated parents, “The arrest and removal of a mother or father from a child’s life forces that child to confront emotional, social and economic consequences that may trigger behavior problems, poor outcomes in school and a disruption or severance of the relationship with the incarcerated parent that may persist even after the parent is released from prison.” (Hairston 2007)

Although studies have not consistently shown a causal relationship, three of five recent studies have demonstrated “an independent effect of parental incarceration on child anti-social behavior; [and] two additional studies showed an independent effect of parental imprisonment on child mental health, drug use, school failure, and unemployment.” (La Vigne, Davies and Brazzell 2008) To assist stakeholders who are involved with affected families, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) created the Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP) project.

The COIP project includes:
  • Review of existing literature and promising practices about working with children of incarcerated parents and their families

  • Research and identification of up to four sites that have demonstrated measured success with innovative and promising practices for working with and on behalf of children of incarcerated parents

  • Engagement with stakeholders, such as law enforcement agencies, correctional agencies, court systems, prosecutors, pretrial officers, and social service providers, and translating their lessons learned into a framework for working with and on behalf of affected children

  • Development of a framework document that guides criminal justice organizations and related stakeholders in developing and implementing policies and practices to strengthen the bonds between criminal justice-involved parents and their children through reentry programming focused on decision points throughout the criminal justice continuum from arrest through pre-adjudication to release

  • Examination of the effect on children of having a justice-involved parent at various points of the criminal justice continuum, from arrest through pre-adjudication to release


A portion of the COIP project will include an NIC partnership with The Urban Institute on an 18-month cooperative agreement. The intent of the agreement is to develop a guiding framework document of promising practices regarding children of incarcerated parents. It will focus on arrest through pre-adjudication and highlight innovative practices for working with children of incarcerated parents and their families. The document will also be a guideline for stakeholders, such as law enforcement, correctional agencies, court system personnel, prosecutors, pretrial officers, and social service providers, who rely on collaboration to work with this target population.

The cooperative agreement will also include examination of the points of the criminal justice continuum from arrest and jail incarceration through the pre-adjudication phase and how each of the decisions made throughout the pre-adjudication phase in the criminal justice system affects children and their families. The project will further identify and highlight innovations and promising practices that have been shown to affect children of incarcerated parents positively.

“The Importance of the COIP Project”

The COIP project will focus on the front end of the criminal justice continuum, from arrest through pre-adjudication, with the hopes of identifying ways to stop the cycle of crime for many parents who enter the system. There is tremendous opportunity to intervene in the lives of parents before their behavior or criminal activity escalates, resulting in long-term incarceration and long-term adverse effects on their families.

  • Creasie Finney Hairston, 2007. Focus on Children with Incarcerated Parents: An Overview of the Research Literature. The Annie E. Casey Foundation.


  • Nancy La Vigne, Elizabeth Davies, and Diana Brazzell, 2008. Broken Bonds: Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Parents. Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.

  • Recommended Reading

    Date Title Type
    2015
    Document 031362
    Seven Out of Ten? Not Even Close: A Review of Research on the Likelihood of Children with Incarcerated Parents Becoming Justice-Involved
    By Conway, James M.; Jones, Edward T.. Central Connecticut State University. Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP). The Children with Incarcerated Parents (CIP) Initiative (New Britain, CT); Rutgers University-Camden. National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (Camden, NJ).
    "It has been widely claimed without documentary evidence that children with incarcerated parents (CIP) are six times more likely than other children to become justice-involved, and that seven out of ten CIP will become justice-involved. These undocumented claims are important because (a) they have been used to justify public policy and (b) they are potentially stigmatizing to CIP. We reviewed six sources using representative sampling methods in a variety of countries and providing eight estimate... Read More

    20 pages
    2012
    Document 032613
    Children, Parents, and Incarceration: Descriptive Overview of Data from Alameda and San Francisco County Jails
    By Kramer, Katie; McDonnell, Sharon. Zellerbach Family Foundation (San Francisco, CA). Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (ACCIPP) (Oakland, CA); San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (SFCIPP) (San Francisco, CA) .
    "In Fall 2014, the Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (ACCIPP) and the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (SFCIPP) worked in partnership with their respective Sheriffs’ Departments to survey more than 2,000 individuals incarcerated within the local county jails. The focus of the survey was to identify whom within the jails is a parent, their perceptions of how their incarceration affects their children, and what types of resources are needed for c... Read More
    _blank
    63 pages
    2014
    Document 028327
    Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents
    U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) (Alexandria, VA).
    "Law enforcement agencies will find the information contained in this document highly instructive as they seek to enhance their policies and procedures and gain understanding about the trauma children experience when law enforcement carries out its investigative and arrest responsibilities." This publication is made up of two parts. "Concepts and Issues Paper": introduction; definitions; the number of children affected; legal responsibilities of law enforcement for children of arrested parents; ... Read More
    PDF
    38 pages
    2014
    Document 028030
    Children with Incarcerated Parents – Considering Children’s Outcomes in the Context of Complex Family Experiences
    By Michaels, Cari, editor. University of Minnesota—Extension. Children, Youth & Family Consortium (St. Paul, MN).
    “This issue examines the needs of children with incarcerated parents. These children are often overlooked in our schools, clinics, and social service settings. As noted in many ways throughout the article, this is not a homogeneous group – the experiences of these children are varied and changing. Responding to their needs will require attention to their unique life circumstances” (p. 2). Articles contained in this publication are: “Research Summary” by Rebecca J. Shlafer discussing the effects ... Read More
    PDF
    17 pages
    2015
    Document 030001
    How To Explain A Parent's Arrest To A Child: Preschool—Ages 4 to 5
    Kennesaw State University. Center for Sustainable Journalism. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JIIE) (Kennesaw, GA).
    This pocket-sized card is a wonderful tool to remind law enforcement staff about the impact on a child whose parents are being arrested or incarcerated. Sections of this card explain: child's perception of arrest; how children might act and how you should respond; what to say; and when arrest is a raid or domestic violence (DV) response.... Read More

    1 pages
    2012
    Document 028031
    Parents Behind Bars: Children of Incarcerated Family Members: Answers to Children’s Difficult Questions
    By Tse, Michelle L.. Idaho Criminal Justice Commission. Children of Incarcerated Parents Committee (Boise, ID); Family Advocates (Boise, ID).
    While this publication is a toolkit for caregivers and educators in Idaho, the information it presents is applicable to any state. Contents explain: the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission Children of Incarcerated Guiding Principles; the National Bill of Rights for Children of the Incarcerated; how to use this toolkit; feelings and emotions; 10 Tips for Caregivers and Educators … from Caregivers; most common questions a child might ask at every stage in the criminal justice process; 10 Questions a... Read More
    PDF
    42 pages
    2013
    Document 027981
    Stronger Together
    Florence V. Burden Foundation (New York, NY). Osborne Association (New York, NY).
    This collection of handbooks is an excellent resource for anyone who cares for or works with children who have incarcerated parents. These “handbooks include information, tools, and resources, as well as vignettes and quotes to illustrate real-life examples. They are written for a diverse and broad audience who significantly touch and influence children’s lives, including caregivers of all kinds, professionals, volunteers, family members, and other caring adults. While the handbooks focus on chi... Read More
    _blank
    3 volumes (volume 1 – 48 pages, volume 2 – 60 pages, volume 3 – 76 pages)
    2015
    Document 031307
    Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs
    By Peterson, Bryce; Cramer, Lindsey; Kurs, Emma; Fontaine, Jocelyn. Urban Institute. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "Through no fault of their own, millions of children have been exposed to and affected by the criminal justice system by witnessing their parent being arrested, by seeing their parent in court, or by visiting their parent in jail or prison. Indeed, many of the thousands of adult men and women who are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated each year leave behind minor children who must grapple with their parent’s absence for days, months, or years. Although such exposure does not always result in... Read More

    19 pages
    2013
    Document 027975
    Incarceration, Poverty, and the Family
    By Massoglia, Michael; Poehlmann, Julie; Cook, Steven. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) (Madison, WI).
    This is an excellent presentation on how great the impact of incarceration is on inmates’ children. It should be viewed by all stakeholders involved in juvenile justice system, and all local, state, and federal legislators. Massoglia covers: why we should be concerned about the penal system—expansion, stock and flow, those most impacted, and social consequences (by individual level, family level, and community); most inmates come from the most disadvantaged group in society—economic, poverty, fi... Read More
    _blank
    56 minutes
    2013
    Document 027920
    Through the Eyes of a Child: Life with a Mother in Prison
    Volunteers of America (Alexandria, VA). Wilder Research (St. Paul, MN).
    This report attempts to discover how the children involved in the Volunteers of America (VOA) initiative Look Up and Hope (LUH) feel while their mother has been incarcerated. It sheds a light on the experiences of this special population of children and offers a way other jurisdictions can approach helping these kids. Sections of this publication include: background and purpose—the growing family problem of incarcerated mothers, and the creation of the LUH program; key findings—children with mot... Read More
    _blank
    16 pages
    2013
    Document 027415
    Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration
    Beaches Resorts (Miami, FL). Sesame Workshop (New York, NY).
    Sesame Workshop's newest initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, provides much-needed bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia tools for families with young children (ages 3-8) who have an incarcerated parent. These FREE resources include a resource kit with A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, a Children's Storybook, and a new Sesame Street video; an Incarcerated Parent Tip Sheet; and the Sesame Street: Incarceration mobile app for smart phones and tablets, all of which can ... Read More
    _blank
    2013
    Document 027439
    Parents in State Prisons
    The Sentencing Project (Washington, DC).
    “Today, the parents of 1 in every 50 children in the United States are in prison. 1 Over half of those parents are serving time for non-violent offenses.2 The gains in public safety benefits stemming from incarcerating a record number of parents are dubious, but the potential adverse consequences for children are clear. More than 40 percent of parents in prison lived with their children before they were sent to prison and half were the main source of financial support for their children.3 Sendin... Read More
    PDF
    2 pages
    2014
    Document 027873
    Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents
    By Jarjoura, G. Roger; DuBois, David L.; Shlafer, Rebecca J.; Haight, Konrad A.. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Washington, DC).
    This Listening Session allowed juvenile justice professionals, families, and allies to share their expertise and experiences regarding the mentoring of children of incarcerated parents. “The report summarizes participants' recommendations, ways to reach this unique at-risk population, and evidence-based mentoring practices that can serve the needs and support the strengths of children of incarcerated parents.” Sections following an executive summary include: research and background on children o... Read More
    PDF
    63 pages
    2015
    Document 031308
    Promising and Innovative Practices for Children of Incarcerated Parents: Arrest through Pre-Adjudication [Webinar]
    By Bernstein, Nell; Brant, Jill M.; Carson, Sarah West; Crawford, Greg; Donohue, Patti; Fontaine, Jocelyn; Kroll, Amy; Krupat, Tanya; Ludwig, Amanda; Marion, Asmara; Peterson, Bryce; Still, Wendy; Suhr, Greg. Urban Institute. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "Nearly three million children under the age of 18 have a parent in jail or prison, and millions more have experienced their parents being arrested. Due to their parent’s criminal justice involvement, a growing body of research indicates that these children often experience trauma, family disruption, and the loss of their primary caregiver, which can lead to financial hardship, residential instability, and an array of emotional and behavioral problems. In response, several community-based organi... Read More

    272 minutes
    2014
    Document 029609
    Video Visiting in Corrections: Benefits, Limitations, and Implementation Considerations
    By Hollihan, Allison; Portlock, Michelle. National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC); NIC-12C506GKM5. Osborne Association (Bronx NY); National Institute of Corrections (NIC). Community Corrections Division (Washington, DC).
    "The purpose of this guide is to inform the development of video visiting programs within a correctional setting. “Video visiting” is real-time interactive video communication which uses video conferencing technology or virtual software programs, such as Skype. It is an increasingly popular form of communication between separated family members in settings outside of corrections. The rapid expansion of video visiting in jails and prisons over the past few years suggests that video visiting may b... Read More
    PDF
    105 pages

    Related Resources

    Date Title Type
    2015
    Document 031307
    Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs
    By Peterson, Bryce; Cramer, Lindsey; Kurs, Emma; Fontaine, Jocelyn. Urban Institute. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "Through no fault of their own, millions of children have been exposed to and affected by the criminal justice system by witnessing their parent being arrested, by seeing their parent in court, or by visiting their parent in jail or prison. Indeed, many of the thousands of adult men and women who are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated each year leave behind minor children who must grapple with their parent’s absence for days, months, or years. Although such exposure does not always result in... Read More

    19 pages
    2015
    Document 030001
    How To Explain A Parent's Arrest To A Child: Preschool—Ages 4 to 5
    Kennesaw State University. Center for Sustainable Journalism. Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JIIE) (Kennesaw, GA).
    This pocket-sized card is a wonderful tool to remind law enforcement staff about the impact on a child whose parents are being arrested or incarcerated. Sections of this card explain: child's perception of arrest; how children might act and how you should respond; what to say; and when arrest is a raid or domestic violence (DV) response.... Read More

    1 pages
    2015
    Document 031293
    Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?
    By Murphey, David; Cooper, P. Mae. Annie E. Casey Foundation (Baltimore, MD). Child Trends, Inc. (Bethesda, MD).
    "Children do not often figure in discussions of incarceration, but new research finds more than five million U.S. children have had at least one parent in prison at one time or another—about three times higher than earlier estimates that included only children with a parent currently incarcerated" (p. 1). This is an excellent report examining the prevalence of incarceration amongst parents and the associated consequences for their children. Sections of this report include: overview; key findings... Read More

    20 pages
    2015
    Document 031308
    Promising and Innovative Practices for Children of Incarcerated Parents: Arrest through Pre-Adjudication [Webinar]
    By Bernstein, Nell; Brant, Jill M.; Carson, Sarah West; Crawford, Greg; Donohue, Patti; Fontaine, Jocelyn; Kroll, Amy; Krupat, Tanya; Ludwig, Amanda; Marion, Asmara; Peterson, Bryce; Still, Wendy; Suhr, Greg. Urban Institute. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project (Washington, DC); National Institute of Corrections (NIC) (Washington, DC).
    "Nearly three million children under the age of 18 have a parent in jail or prison, and millions more have experienced their parents being arrested. Due to their parent’s criminal justice involvement, a growing body of research indicates that these children often experience trauma, family disruption, and the loss of their primary caregiver, which can lead to financial hardship, residential instability, and an array of emotional and behavioral problems. In response, several community-based organi... Read More

    272 minutes
    2014
    Document 028030
    Children with Incarcerated Parents – Considering Children’s Outcomes in the Context of Complex Family Experiences
    By Michaels, Cari, editor. University of Minnesota—Extension. Children, Youth & Family Consortium (St. Paul, MN).
    “This issue examines the needs of children with incarcerated parents. These children are often overlooked in our schools, clinics, and social service settings. As noted in many ways throughout the article, this is not a homogeneous group – the experiences of these children are varied and changing. Responding to their needs will require attention to their unique life circumstances” (p. 2). Articles contained in this publication are: “Research Summary” by Rebecca J. Shlafer discussing the effects ... Read More
    PDF
    17 pages
    2014
    Document 028020
    Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP) Resources
    Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP) (Frederick, MD).
    This website provides a great collection of brochures explaining incarceration to the children of inmates. Resources available to download include: “Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership Brochure”; “Resource page for Children of Incarcerated Parents”; “Caring for Children of Incarcerated Parents”; “How to Explain Jails and Prisons”; “An Overview of Mommies and Daddies in Jail”; “Visiting Mom in Jail”; and “Visiting Dad in Jail”.... Read More
    _blank
    2014
    Document 027873
    Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents
    By Jarjoura, G. Roger; DuBois, David L.; Shlafer, Rebecca J.; Haight, Konrad A.. U.S. Dept. of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Washington, DC).
    This Listening Session allowed juvenile justice professionals, families, and allies to share their expertise and experiences regarding the mentoring of children of incarcerated parents. “The report summarizes participants' recommendations, ways to reach this unique at-risk population, and evidence-based mentoring practices that can serve the needs and support the strengths of children of incarcerated parents.” Sections following an executive summary include: research and background on children o... Read More
    PDF
    63 pages
    2014
    Document 028327
    Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents
    U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (Washington, DC). International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) (Alexandria, VA).
    "Law enforcement agencies will find the information contained in this document highly instructive as they seek to enhance their policies and procedures and gain understanding about the trauma children experience when law enforcement carries out its investigative and arrest responsibilities." This publication is made up of two parts. "Concepts and Issues Paper": introduction; definitions; the number of children affected; legal responsibilities of law enforcement for children of arrested parents; ... Read More
    PDF
    38 pages
    2013
    Document 027439
    Parents in State Prisons
    The Sentencing Project (Washington, DC).
    “Today, the parents of 1 in every 50 children in the United States are in prison. 1 Over half of those parents are serving time for non-violent offenses.2 The gains in public safety benefits stemming from incarcerating a record number of parents are dubious, but the potential adverse consequences for children are clear. More than 40 percent of parents in prison lived with their children before they were sent to prison and half were the main source of financial support for their children.3 Sendin... Read More
    PDF
    2 pages
    2013
    Document 027415
    Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration
    Beaches Resorts (Miami, FL). Sesame Workshop (New York, NY).
    Sesame Workshop's newest initiative, Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, provides much-needed bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia tools for families with young children (ages 3-8) who have an incarcerated parent. These FREE resources include a resource kit with A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, a Children's Storybook, and a new Sesame Street video; an Incarcerated Parent Tip Sheet; and the Sesame Street: Incarceration mobile app for smart phones and tablets, all of which can ... Read More
    _blank
    2013
    Document 027920
    Through the Eyes of a Child: Life with a Mother in Prison
    Volunteers of America (Alexandria, VA). Wilder Research (St. Paul, MN).
    This report attempts to discover how the children involved in the Volunteers of America (VOA) initiative Look Up and Hope (LUH) feel while their mother has been incarcerated. It sheds a light on the experiences of this special population of children and offers a way other jurisdictions can approach helping these kids. Sections of this publication include: background and purpose—the growing family problem of incarcerated mothers, and the creation of the LUH program; key findings—children with mot... Read More
    _blank
    16 pages
    2013
    Document 027981
    Stronger Together
    Florence V. Burden Foundation (New York, NY). Osborne Association (New York, NY).
    This collection of handbooks is an excellent resource for anyone who cares for or works with children who have incarcerated parents. These “handbooks include information, tools, and resources, as well as vignettes and quotes to illustrate real-life examples. They are written for a diverse and broad audience who significantly touch and influence children’s lives, including caregivers of all kinds, professionals, volunteers, family members, and other caring adults. While the handbooks focus on chi... Read More
    _blank
    3 volumes (volume 1 – 48 pages, volume 2 – 60 pages, volume 3 – 76 pages)

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