Brief Offers Policies for Families Separated by Foster Care and Incarceration

Posted May 9, 2018
Mom and son connect.

A new pol­i­cy brief from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion exam­ines two Casey Foun­da­tion pri­or­i­ties – chil­dren in fos­ter care and chil­dren of incar­cer­at­ed par­ents – and calls for a rig­or­ous sys­tem of tar­get­ing, test­ing and track­ing to bet­ter under­stand what harms kids most and to iden­ti­fy strate­gies that help.

The brief, Help­ing Chil­dren With Par­ents in Prison and Chil­dren in Fos­ter Care,” intro­duces the lat­est vol­ume of the Prince­ton-Brook­ings jour­nal The Future of Chil­dren, which pro­motes effec­tive, evi­dence-based poli­cies and pro­grams for chil­dren. The cur­rent vol­ume, titled Reduc­ing Jus­tice Sys­tem Inequal­i­ty,” focus­es on how the jus­tice sys­tem exac­er­bates inequal­i­ty for chil­dren and youth across a range of insti­tu­tions, and pro­pos­es solu­tions to mit­i­gate these effects. The jour­nal includes arti­cles on juve­nile pro­ba­tion, diver­sion and jails and school-based polic­ing, as well as the top­ics high­light­ed in the pol­i­cy brief.

The Foundation’s 2016 KIDS COUNT pol­i­cy report, A Shared Sen­tence, showed that 5.1 mil­lion chil­dren in the Unit­ed States have had a par­ent incar­cer­at­ed, dri­ving increased pover­ty, home­less­ness, hunger and trau­ma. The report called for prac­tices that con­sid­er the well-being of chil­dren in sen­tenc­ing deci­sions, remove bar­ri­ers between kids and par­ents dur­ing incar­cer­a­tion and pre­vent re-incar­cer­a­tion by con­nect­ing par­ents to oppor­tu­ni­ty after their release. The Prince­ton-Brook­ings report adds that data can test whether pol­i­cy changes increase vis­i­ta­tion by chil­dren and improve their outcomes.

The new brief also focus­es on the more than 400,000 chil­dren in fos­ter care, call­ing for the need to reduce the num­ber of chil­dren in state care and to improve the sys­tem, includ­ing recruit­ing and sup­port­ing high-qual­i­ty fos­ter par­ents through cam­paigns such as CHAMPS – Chil­dren Need Amaz­ing Par­ents. The report calls for bet­ter track­ing of chil­dren enter­ing the sys­tem to have real-time infor­ma­tion on their sta­tus and test­ing of inter­ven­tion programs.

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