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Children of inmates

Parenting programs for incarcerated parents have become increasingly popular within corrections departments over the past several decades. The programs are appealing as they are thought to improve not only long-term prosocial outcomes and reductions in recidivism for parents who are reentering their communities after lockup, but also outcomes for their children. While some parenting programs have been shown to be effective in various ways, they may be insufficient to produce long-lasting, positive impacts for families with loved ones involved in the criminal justice system. We proposed that an expanded definition of what a parenting program is might be useful—a “multimodal” parenting program. Such programs address not only the development of parenting knowledge and the practice of parenting skills, but also the numerous contextual challenges that many correction-involved parents face during and following incarceration. Some of these challenges include inadequate housing, parent unemployment, parental mental and physical health issues, and conflictual personal relationships. We overview our work to build a multimodal parenting program for incarcerated parents and their families, and discuss the implication of such for future research, practice, and policy.

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 mothers in prison frequently experience great loss (i.e., homes, friends, and emotional support systems), they usually find strength and stability from those caregivers they love especially grandmothers, and children and families depend on their VOA family coaches or case managers; and conclusions and next steps.

Through the Eyes of a Child: Life with a Mother in Prison Cover

"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 negative outcomes for children, the extant research does suggest that parental involvement in the criminal justice system can put children at risk of residential instability, economic strain and financial hardship, mental health problems, poor academic performance, and antisocial and delinquent behavior. Parental involvement in the system can be traumatic for children and can hinder the quality of the relationship they have with their parent … This toolkit and the strategies and experiences described herein are intended for people who are interested in developing family-focused jail programs in their own jurisdictions, such as jail practitioners and community-based organizations working with jail administrators and jail detainees" (p. 1). Sections cover: family-focused jail programs; Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights; considerations for developing a comprehensive family-focused jail program—identify goals, ensure that the process is collaborative, determine what components should be in the program (parenting classes, coached phone calls, contact visits, and others), and implement the program (program structure and sequence, eligibility, and staff training); challenges and lessons learned (have adequate and appropriate space for the various program components, strike a balance between having fun and providing a service, minimize the trauma associated with visiting a parent in jail, account for high population turnover in jails, and secure adequate, sustainable funding); and conclusion.

Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs Cover

On any given day, approximately 2.6 million children (or about 1 in every 33) have a parent in jail or prison. Until relatively recently, few people paid attention to what happens to children when their parents are incarcerated, but as the number of parents in jails and prisons grew during the 1980s and 1990s there began to be an appreciation that incarcerating parents can have a profound and enduring effect on their children.

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