Plan Targets Children of Incarcerated Parents
By Martha Plotkin, CSG Justice Center
The Council of State Governments Justice Center announced at a Capitol Hill briefing Oct. 26 the release of “Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers.” The plan outlines promising practices and 70-plus recommendations for improving outcomes for the more than 1.7 million children of incarcerated parents. Supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Open Society Institute, the publication reflects the work of an advisory board of criminal justice and child welfare experts, representatives of community-based organizations, and a bipartisan group of state and local government officials.
“When parents are incarcerated, the impact on their children can be devastating,” said Michigan Sen. Alan Cropsey, co-chair of the advisory board. “There is so much we can do—from arrest to re-entry—that can reduce the trauma for children and help ensure that their needs, and those of their caregivers, are being met. At last, that information is captured in this plan.”
The federal action plan makes several recommendations, including the following:
Urge policymakers to create federal interagency task forces and develop cross-system collaborations that address the risk factors of children of incarcerated parents and better link them to services.
Support new policies and practices in the criminal justice system that address trauma associated with a parent’s arrest and their incarceration in a prison that is often many miles from where a child is living.
Encourage measures that facilitate visitation when in the best interests of the child and promote permanence that takes into account siblings and other important relationships.
Address federal and state measures that make it more difficult for caregivers to obtain benefits and support for these children.
“Corrections, child welfare and other agencies that encounter children of incarcerated parents can better coordinate their efforts to provide the care and services they need,” said advisory board co-chair Robin Arnold-Williams, director of the Executive Policy Office of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “The Justice Center partnered with leaders in the field to ensure the action plan guides policymakers on the best strategies to ensure that these children are safe and secure. It is one of the most comprehensive summaries of key policy changes needed for this vulnerable population.”
The CSG Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities.