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

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

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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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