Partnerships Between Corrections and Child Welfare
On any one day, about 1.5 million children nationwide have parents behind bars. The parents of an estimated 10 million more youngsters have been imprisoned at some point during the children's lives. Children who experience a parent's arrest and are later separated from them suffer psychological problems including trauma, anxiety, guilt, shame, and fear. These problems frequently manifest themselves in poor academic achievement, truancy, dropping out of school, gang involvement, early pregnancy, drug abuse, delinquency, and imprisonment.
The child welfare and criminal justice systems work with many of the same people - poor families in which parents struggle with drug addiction and children are at risk of foster care placement - but in most jurisdictions, these systems have little official contact with each other. This works hardship on everyone and is costly, inefficient, and damaging to community well-being.
What is "Partnerships Between Corrections and Child Welfare"?
This tool describes practical initiatives to reduce the trauma to children whose parents are arrested and/or imprisoned.
How was this tool applied in Family to Family?
As a technical assistance provider to the Family to Family initiative, the Women's Prison Association, a nationwide organization, worked to:
- Enroll stakeholders in the importance of addressing the special needs of incarcerated parents and their children;
- Develop a collaborative, working relationship between officials of the child welfare and criminal justice systems; and
- Identify existing resources that could undergird a more comprehensive strategy for working with incarcer-ated parents and their families.
The process involved collecting statistical data; defining the universe of stakeholders, relevant issues, the political climate, and current trends; interviewing families and focus groups, and visits to correctional facilities. A steering committee provided direction to the effort and periodically met to process the information collected and to translate it into an action agenda.
What did we learn from these applications?
Agencies can and should:
- Foster and support an interagency commitment to working together;
- Aid mothers in managing their parental role and responsibilities;
- Improve the conditions of visitation;
- Reduce the trauma suffered by children; and
- Provide strategic services that support the healthy development of women and families.
What you need to get started:
This tool outlines initial and subsequent steps to achieving the goals above. An initial meeting of child welfare agency leaders with police, court and prison officials may benefit from prior informal discussions of common problems.
What you need for full implementation:
Full commitment of all sides to the goals of the joint effort is essential. Consultation with the Women's Prison Association is available for further guidance.
How to find out more:
resources, examples, references:
Contact Ann Jacobs of the Women's Prison Association at 212.674.1163 ext. 17 for more information.