Report Identifies and Explores Home Visiting Programs for Justice-Involved Parents

Posted August 10, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog homevisitingprogramsthatengage 2020

Parent in justice system received home-visiting support

Home vis­it­ing pro­grams that part­ner with jus­tice sys­tem-involved par­ents are gain­ing atten­tion — and right­ful­ly so. A grow­ing body of research, includ­ing a recent scan of 32 such pro­grams across 19 states, sug­gests that these ini­tia­tives are unique­ly posi­tioned to sup­port the par­ents they serve.

The results of this scan, cap­tured in the Nation­al Scan of Home Vis­it­ing Pro­grams for Jus­tice Sys­tem-Involved Par­ents report, stem from an online sur­vey fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and con­duct­ed by the Tufts Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Eval­u­a­tion Reser­ach (TIER) team in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Boston Col­lege Law School and the Chil­dren’s Trust of Massachusetts.

To gen­er­ate the report, TIER researchers looked at var­i­ous fac­tors: tar­get pop­u­la­tions, staff train­ing, fund­ing sources and com­mu­ni­ty col­lab­o­ra­tions across the sur­veyed pro­grams. They also con­sid­ered input from pol­i­cy and prac­tice experts.

Among their findings:

  • Most of the 32 pro­grams sur­veyed were rel­a­tive­ly small, involv­ing 25 or few­er par­ents per year. These pro­grams report­ed serv­ing rel­a­tives with pri­ma­ry cus­tody, fos­ter par­ents, cus­to­di­al par­ents or oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers as well as bio­log­i­cal parents.
  • Just six pro­grams were specif­i­cal­ly geared toward jus­tice sys­tem-involved parents.
  • About half the pro­grams sur­veyed said that they offered home vis­i­tors train­ing on the jus­tice sys­tem; oth­ers iden­ti­fied plans to do so in the future.
  • The pro­grams worked with par­ents and fam­i­lies at all phas­es of the jus­tice sys­tem but most fre­quent­ly dur­ing pro­ba­tion, incar­cer­a­tion, parole and dur­ing the tran­si­tion to com­mu­ni­ty after release.
  • Fund­ing sources for the pro­grams var­ied, with resources com­ing from coun­ty, state and fed­er­al gov­ern­ments. Some pro­grams cit­ed dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing sus­tain­able funding.
  • Child wel­fare agen­cies, judges, jail staff, pro­ba­tion offi­cers, diver­sion pro­grams and treat­ment cen­ters were most like­ly to refer jus­tice sys­tem-involved par­ents to a home vis­it­ing program.
  • Thir­teen of the pro­grams sur­veyed had at least one for­mal rela­tion­ship with a fed­er­al, state, coun­ty, local, trib­al or mil­i­tary jus­tice ser­vice agency.
  • Not all vis­its took place in a parent’s home. Some­times, the ses­sions occurred in pub­lic spaces and res­i­den­tial facilities.
  • Sev­er­al respon­dents said that they found it dif­fi­cult to con­tin­ue offer­ing sup­port while par­ents tran­si­tioned between com­mu­ni­ty and incar­cer­a­tion settings.

Beyond iden­ti­fy­ing broad trends, the report pin­point­ed three pro­grams that were specif­i­cal­ly designed with jus­tice sys­tem-involved par­ents in mind. These are the Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty Young Par­ents Project, MOMo­bile at River­side and Resilience Beyond Incar­cer­a­tion. The authors also shared ideas on how home vis­it­ing pro­grams, gen­er­al­ly, could be improved.

Among their recommendations:

  • Home vis­i­tors should have a foun­da­tion­al knowl­edge of the jus­tice sys­tem and an under­stand­ing of struc­tur­al racism and poverty.
  • Home vis­it­ing pro­grams and jus­tice sys­tem rep­re­sen­ta­tives can col­lab­o­rate under informed con­sent and Mem­o­ran­dums of Under­stand­ing (MOUs) to ensure that par­ents can speak open­ly with home vis­i­tors and with­out fear that their words will be used against them in court.

This unprece­dent­ed nation­al scan illu­mi­nates the range of pro­gram­mat­ic approach­es to offer evi­dence-based home vis­it­ing to jus­tice-sys­tem involved par­ents,” says Ilene Berman, a senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group. The more home vis­it­ing pro­grams can under­stand the cir­cum­stances for this group of par­ents and adapt their pro­grams accord­ing­ly, the more effec­tive they will be in help­ing fam­i­lies thrive.”

Read about a home vis­it­ing pro­gram that shows ben­e­fits for young jus­tice-involved mothers

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