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Children of Incarcerated Parents

a young girl of mixed background

Family Strengthening Project
The purpose of this cooperative agreement is to develop low-cost high-impact family strengthening policies that can be implemented in local jails and state prisons; including developing training materials with an implementation strategy for training correctional institutions about the model policies. Model policies should be based on existing research, promising practice, and guidance from experts from both the correctional and child welfare communities. 

The project objectives include the following:

  • Identify a committee of subject matter experts for children of incarcerated parents that can represent correctional and child welfare communities and can be utilized as experts throughout the project; 
     
  • Develop a national model of family strengthening policies that can be adopted and implemented by local jails and state prisons;

    Model policies may include, but are not limited to: assessment and referral for incarcerated parents visiting policies and procedures; visiting room and waiting room environments; parenting and related programming offered in correctional facilities; family reunification and reentry planning; child development training for staff; and accessing community-based services.

  • Develop training materials that will inform correctional policy and practice in local jails and state prisons to include implementation strategies;
     
  • Provide training and Technical Assistance;
     
  • Design and execute an implementation evaluation protocol to track implementation of model policies and initial process outcomes; and
     
  • Design an evaluation protocol to track implementation of model policies and outcomes.

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.
 

 

Division: 
Community Services Division