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Justice Center Children of Incarcerated Parents Policy Plan 2009

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CHILDREN~

An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

JUSTICE*CENTER
THE COUNCIL OF STATE GOVERNMENTS

Children of
Incarcerated Parents:
An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Jessica Nickel
Crystal Garland
Leah Kane

Council of State Governments Justice Center
New York, New York

This publication and related research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Open Society Institute. Points
of view, findings, and conclusions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official
position or policies of these supporters or the Council of State Governments’ members.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Open Society Institute reserve the right to reproduce, publish, translate, or otherwise
use and to authorize others to publish and use all or any part of the copyrighted material contained in this publication.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Founded in 1948, the primary mission of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) is to foster public policies, human-service
reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. In
pursuit of this goal, the Foundation makes grants that help states, cities, and neighborhoods fashion more innovative,
cost-effective responses to these needs.
About the Open Society Institute
The Open Society Institute works to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic
systems and implements a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media in the
United States.
About the Council of State Governments Justice Center
The Council of State Governments 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 consensusdriven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities. The Justice
Center specializes in taking on complex issues at the intersection of the criminal justice, public health, and social services
systems. Staff and members are committed to bringing a diverse range of professions and perspectives together to ensure
that recommended policy reforms are practical and effective.
Council of State Governments Justice Center, New York 10005
© 2009 by the Council of State Governments Justice Center
All rights reserved. Published 2009.
Cover design by Mina Bellomy and page design by David Williams.
Suggested citation: Jessica Nickel, Crystal Garland, and Leah Kane, Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal
Policymakers (New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2009).

Contents

Acknowledgments
Advisory Board

v
vii

Introduction

ix

Children of Incarcerated Parents:
Overview and Research

1

Coordination across Service Systems

5

Responses to Children during a Parent’s Arrest

9

Parent-Child Interactions within
Correctional Systems

13

Support for Kinship Caregivers of Children
Whose Parents Are Incarcerated

19

Foster Care and Permanence

23

Child Support

27

State and Federal Benefits and Income Support

31

Conclusion

37

References

39

Acknowledgments
The Council of State Governments Justice
Center thanks Carole Thompson, Rob Geen,
and Stacey Bouchet from the Annie E. Casey
Foundation and Susan Tucker from the Open
Society Institute for their enthusiastic support
of this project.
Michigan Senator Alan Cropsey and
Washington State Director Robin ArnoldWilliams, Executive Policy Office, Office of
Governor Chris Gregoire, gave generously of
their time as co-chairs of the advisory board,
facilitating meeting discussions and providing
feedback on the action plan. In addition, the
Justice Center appreciates the work of the other
advisory board members for their experience
and expertise to inform this plan. Their
contributions were invaluable (see page vii
for a full list of advisory board members).
The authors also thank the numerous
current and former Justice Center staff
members who contributed their time to

enhancing this document, including director
Michael Thompson, communications director
Martha Plotkin, and law enforcement project
director Blake Norton. Regina L. Davis, deputy
communications director, also provided critical
proofing assistance. While at the Justice Center,
policy analyst Rachel McLean and research
associate Gina Anzaldua were instrumental in
the implementation of this project: participating
in interviews, planning meetings that helped
shape the action plan, and preparing initial
drafts.
Finally, numerous community-based
providers and state and local government
officials generously gave their time to provide
valuable information for this publication. Their
contributions helped ensure that this action
plan accurately reflects the steps needed to
address the needs of children whose parents
have been incarcerated.

Acknowledgments

v

Advisory Board*
Co-Chairs
Sen. Alan Cropsey
Michigan
Robin Arnold-Williams
Director, Executive Policy Office
Office of Governor Gregoire
Washington
Ann Adalist-Estrin
Director
Family and Corrections Network
Karen Anthony
Program Analyst
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, Administration for Children &
Families, Office of Child Support Enforcement
Sandra Barnhill
Executive Director
Forever Family
Stacey Bouchet
Consultant
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Rashida Brown
Policy Associate
National Association of Public Child Welfare
Administrators, American Public Human
Services Association
Sheriff Andrea Cabral
Suffolk County (Mass.) Sheriff’s Department
Judge Renee Cardwell-Hughes
First Judicial District of Pennsylvania

JooYeun Chang
Director of Public Policy and Communications
Casey Family Programs
Steve Christian
Child Welfare Policy Advisor
Casey Family Programs
Tiffany Conway
Child Welfare Policy Analyst
Center for Law and Social Policy
Ben de Haan
Consultant
Paula Fendall
Director of Children of Incarcerated Parents
Program, NYC Administration for Children’s
Services
Sarah From
Director of Public Policy and Communications
Women’s Prison Association
Maria Fuentes
Public Policy Advisor
Casey Family Programs
Rutledge Hutson
Director of Child Welfare Policy
Center for Law and Social Policy
Nancy La Vigne
Senior Research Associate
Urban Institute
Arlene Lee
Senior Associate
Center for the Study of Social Policy

* The titles of all Advisory Board members reflect the positions they held at the time of the meeting in November 2008.

Advisory Board

vii

Anita Light
Director
National Association of Public Child Welfare
Administrators and Children and Family
Services, American Public Human Services
Association
Linda Mellgren
Senior Social Science Analyst
U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Planning and Evaluation/
Human Services

Karen Shain
Co-Director
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Carol Shapiro
President
Family Justice
Commissioner Frank Straub
White Plains (N.Y.) Department of Public Safety
Carole Thompson
Senior Associate
Annie E. Casey Foundation

Diana Merelman
Social Science Analyst
HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for
Planning and Evaluation/Human Services

Susan Tucker
Director, The After Prison Initiative
The Open Society Institute

Carol Mizoguchi
Director of Partnership Management
Casey Family Programs

Vicki Turetsky
Senior Staff Attorney
Center for Law and Social Policy

Aaron Nelson
Research Assistant
Center for Law and Social Policy

Claire Walker
Executive Director
Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation

Dee Ann Newell
Soros Senior Justice Fellow

A. T. Wall
Director
Rhode Island Department of Corrections

Susan Phillips
Assistant Professor, Jane Addams College of
Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago

viii

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Introduction
The Issue
The growth in the number of men and women
incarcerated in the United States over the past
twenty years has affected an extraordinary
number of children and families. In 2007, more
than 1.7 million minor children had a parent
in federal or state prison.1 Research indicates
that on any given day more than seven million
children may have a parent in prison or jail,
or under parole or probation supervision.2
Children of incarcerated parents are at risk
of poor school performance,3 drug use and
mental health problems, and more likely to be
exposed to parental substance abuse, extreme
poverty, and domestic violence.4 Unfortunately,
connecting these children to services can be
difficult for government agencies, and little
is known about their specific needs or how
effectively these needs are being addressed.

Purpose of the Action Plan
Despite these large numbers of affected
children and the mounting interest in prisoner
reentry, the need to improve outcomes for
children of incarcerated parents has received
minimal attention at the national level. The
Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice
Center, with support from the Annie E. Casey
Foundation and Open Society Institute, has
developed an action plan to raise awareness
about these children’s needs and inform policies
and practices to better address them. The action
plan is meant to encourage policy changes that
help improve the outcomes for children who
have a parent in prison or jail.
To help guide this work, the Justice Center
established an advisory board composed of a
broad array of criminal justice and child welfare
experts, including representatives from local

and national children- and family-focused
organizations, state human and social services
directors, corrections officials, and researchers.
These experts informed the development of
the strategies and recommendations in this
action plan to address the needs of children of
incarcerated parents.

Audience for the Action Plan
The action plan reviews both federal and state
barriers to identifying and serving children
of incarcerated parents, and offers policy
recommendations for the U.S. Congress and
the Administration. This action plan is designed
to help federal leaders improve policies for
children of incarcerated parents, but also
includes recommendations of value to state
and local governments that can facilitate and
complement federal initiatives and result in
better responses to this population. Recognizing
that each jurisdiction is different, policymakers
interested in establishing or improving
initiatives for a particular state or community
should tailor the recommendations to reflect
their distinct needs and resources.

Structure of the Action Plan
This guide, though not an exhaustive review
of all relevant studies or programs, highlights
the unique challenges and needs of children of
incarcerated parents based largely on the latest
research findings and supporting statistics, and
relies on feedback from the field.
The advisory board and numerous focus
group participants assisted in identifying the
key topic areas that make up the sections in this
action plan: overview and research, responses
to children during a parent’s arrest, parentchild interactions within correctional systems,

Introduction

ix

coordination across service systems, support for
kinship caregivers, foster care and permanence,
child support, and benefits and income
supports. Following the research overview,
each section and subsection is organized into
a concise statement of the problem, including
barriers to improved responses; potential
responses with examples from the field; and
policy recommendations.

x

The examples included in this guide
spotlight efforts in a variety of cities, counties,
and states that may provide valuable ideas
for policymakers. By highlighting certain
approaches or programs, however, this guide
is not necessarily promoting them as best
practices. They simply reflect various types of
efforts to improve outcomes for children of
incarcerated parents and their caregivers.

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Children of Incarcerated Parents:
Overview and Research
What We Know
The growth in the number of men and
women incarcerated in the United
States has affected an extraordinary
number of children and families.
• Between 1991 and 2007, the number of
children of incarcerated parents increased
80 percent, to more than 1.7 million minor
children.5
• According to studies, approximately 53
percent of minor children with a parent in
prison were age ten or younger.6
Fathers in prison most often cite their
children’s mother as their current
caregiver, whereas mothers in prison
most often cite a grandparent as their
children’s current caregiver.
• Approximately 88 percent of men in prison
and 37 percent of women in prison cite their
child’s other parent as the current caregiver.
Women were more likely to report that
their children lived with a grandparent (45
percent).7
• Approximately 11 percent of women in prison
and 2 percent of men in prison report having
children in a foster home or institution.8
Studies suggest that, generally, children
of incarcerated parents experience a
greater total number of risk factors than
other children.9
• Studies show that as the total number of risk
factors increases, so too does the likelihood
that children develop serious problems.10

• There is evidence to suggest that children
of incarcerated parents are more likely to
live with caregivers who abuse drugs, have
mental health problems, or are inadequately
educated; live in single-parent families; live
in households with incomes below poverty
level; experience sexual abuse or physical
abuse; and are subject to multiple changes in
residences and caregivers.11
• While many of the risk factors children of
incarcerated parents experience are primarily
due to problems of parental substance abuse,
mental illness, or inadequate education,
parental incarceration increases the risk of
children living in poverty or experiencing
household instability independent of these
other problems.12
• A nationally representative study of children
who came into contact with the child welfare
system but were not placed in foster care
shows that children of incarcerated parents
who are involved with the child welfare
system exhibit a higher level of emotional
and behavioral problems than children whose
caregivers had never been arrested.13
• The same study found that children living in
households with their previously incarcerated
mothers were more frequently exposed to
substance abuse, domestic violence, and
extreme poverty than children whose mothers
had never been arrested.14
• Multiple studies show that while, collectively,
children whose parents are involved with the
criminal justice system are exposed to more
risk factors than other children, research also

Children of Incarcerated Parents: Overview and Research

1

shows that there is not a universal risk factor
for this population. These children experience
very diverse risks that require tailored
services.15
Policymakers in several states have
commissioned reports to improve
their understanding of how parental
incarceration affects children and to
develop effective policy responses.16
• California
Assembly Bill 2316, enacted in 2000, directed
the California Research Bureau, with the
assistance of an advisory group of experts in
the field, to design and implement a study
of children of women incarcerated in state
prisons.17 Key findings from the initial report
include (1) nine percent of the state’s children,
or approximately 856,000, had a parent in
prison or jail, or on parole or probation, and
(2) parental arrest and incarceration has a
significant and potentially detrimental impact
on children that varies with their age. The
report cited a study in Riverside that found
that children were present at 20 percent of
mothers’ arrests, and that of those children,
over half were between three and six years
old. This initial report triggered a seven-year
research project, resulting in six publications
and a number of legislative policy seminars,
hearings, and legislation.18
• Arizona
In 2004, the Governor’s Office for Children,
Youth and Families; the Arizona Parents
Commission on Drug Education and
Prevention; and the Arizona Department
of Corrections collaborated to establish the
Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative.
As part of this initiative, the Parents
Commission provided funding to support a
study of the prevalence and needs of Arizona’s
children of incarcerated parents and the
Arizona Children of Incarcerated Parents

2

Bill of Rights Project. Key findings include
(1) on average, mothers were incarcerated
for seven years and fathers for twelve years
and (2) among youth incarcerated in the
state Department of Juvenile Corrections in
2006, 55.3 percent of girls and 44.7 percent
of boys had an adult relative who was or is
in prison. The resulting report provides a
statewide estimate of the number of children
of incarcerated parents, reports demographic
data on both the parents and their children,
and discusses common challenges the
children face.19
• Washington
Washington State enacted legislation in 2005
requiring the Department of Corrections
and the Department of Social and Health
Services to establish an oversight committee
charged with developing a comprehensive
interagency plan to improve services and
supports for children with a parent in jail or
prison.20 The following year, the oversight
committee issued a report recommending
several changes to policies and services,
including protocols for gathering information
on children during court hearings and at
Department of Corrections reception centers,
protocols for arrests where children are
and are not present, and a three-year family
resource center demonstration project.21
The report was followed by the passage
of another bill in 2007, which established
the Children and Families of Incarcerated
Parents Advisory Committee. The Advisory
Committee is responsible for managing the
implementation of the oversight committee
report, issuing additional recommendations to
the legislature, and fostering interagency and
community partnerships. The 2007 legislation
also directed several state agencies to conduct
reviews of their policies and services and
gather data on children and families of
incarcerated parents.22

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

What We Don’t Know
Little is known about who these
children are, their specific needs, or
how effectively existing programs
address those needs.
• It is difficult to quantify the number
of children with incarcerated parents.
There is limited data available among the
various systems in contact with children
of incarcerated parents and many of these
children have no contact with child welfare or
other systems. Self-reporting by parents also
has limitations due to fear of involvement
in the child welfare system, loss of parental
rights, or collection of child support
payments, and hesitancy to seek assistance
due to the stigma associated with parental
incarceration.23

• Even more children have a parent under
community supervision—approximately five
million,24 but more research is needed on
whether children with parents in prison or
jail have different needs than children with
parents under community supervision.
• Few programs that serve children of
incarcerated parents have been rigorously
evaluated. Although some programs have
emerged as leaders in the field, short- and
long-term outcomes among the children they
serve have not been fully documented.

Children of Incarcerated Parents: Overview and Research

3

Recommendations

1. Identify an institution or organization to compile and archive existing research on children
of incarcerated parents, review the evidence on existing programs for this population, and
examine the available literature on parental arrest and its effects on their children.
2. Continue to issue Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, reports at regular
intervals on children of incarcerated parents.
3. Include questions on parental criminal justice system involvement (i.e., arrest, probation, jail,
prison, parole) in national studies and data collection systems and create matching datasets at
the state level to facilitate multi-site studies.
4. Create an initiative to establish information sharing among agencies that may already collect
relevant data on children of incarcerated parents and a repository for the data, and develop
processes to bring relevant authorities together to discuss the information and enact changes
(see Coordination across Service Systems on page 5).
5. Commission qualitative studies that highlight the impact of incarceration on children and
their families; these studies could identify particular priorities and determine the need to
improve the collection of data on the prevalence of criminal justice system involvement
among individuals with children, child and family characteristics, and risk factors of children
with incarcerated parents.
6. Conduct a longitudinal study that takes into account the criminal histories of parents to
determine the long-term impact of parental incarceration on a representative sample of
children with a comparison group to help account for other potential risk factors.
7. Explore variations in outcomes between boys and girls, children with incarcerated fathers
versus incarcerated mothers, or both, age of earliest exposure to parental criminal justice
involvement, short-term parental incarcerations versus long-term parental incarcerations,
and family stability versus instability.
8. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing program models in improving child outcomes.
Particular attention should be given to children involved with Child Protective Services (CPS),
including a study of CPS practices regarding children of incarcerated parents in the child
welfare system and permanency outcomes for such children.
9. Conduct research on the distinct challenges experienced by caregivers of children with a
parent in prison, as well as the effectiveness of existing services designed to address these
challenges.
10. Study infants born in correctional facilities (how many and vital statistics), the quality of
health services for the infants and their mothers, and the infants’ placement arrangements
and outcomes. Research is also needed on the effectiveness and quality of in-residence
programs (where newborns reside with their mothers in corrections facilities) and pregnancy
and obstetrics services in prisons and jails.

4

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Coordination across
Service Systems
The Problem
Incarcerated individuals and their
families may interact with both criminal
justice and human services agencies, yet
these agencies rarely coordinate their
services.
• When parents are incarcerated, multiple
agencies often provide support for these
parents’ children through direct services such
as foster care placement or indirect assistance
to caregivers, but efforts are rarely coordinated
among the agencies that may have a stake
in this issue, including human services,
education, child welfare, parole and probation
authorities, and corrections.

• Multiple agencies can have difficulties
collecting information that can be shared
about children of incarcerated parents or their
caregivers. For example, research indicates
that law enforcement and corrections agencies
do not collect detailed information about
the children of arrested and incarcerated
individuals.25 Similarly, most state child
welfare agencies do not systematically
capture data about the incarcerated parents of
children within their systems.26 In addition
to difficulties in collecting information, there
may also be misconceptions about what
information can be shared across systems or
agencies because of privacy mandates.27

Promising Practices
Effective coordination among
corrections (both adult and juvenile
systems), child welfare, courts, and
human services agencies helps to ensure
that the children of incarcerated parents
and their caregivers receive required
services from these systems.
• Effective communication and information
sharing can help discharge planners, child
welfare caseworkers, and other service
providers identify the children of incarcerated
parents and tailor their services to meet the
needs of this vulnerable population.
• Keeping families consistently connected to
familiar services and caseworkers reduces
the confusion children may experience and
enables caregivers to navigate service systems
more effectively.

• Improved coordination between agencies
can result in positive family interventions
and reunification, when appropriate.
Such interventions—especially when
customized to fit each family’s particular
circumstances—can encourage parents to
successfully transition from incarceration to
the community and may, ultimately, improve
children’s well-being.28
• Coordinated efforts between corrections
departments, child welfare agencies, and the
courts can help to ensure that incarcerated
parents are notified of and involved in court
proceedings regarding the custody of their
children. In addition, court officials can
improve efforts to ensure that criminal and
family court dates and mandates (e.g., parole

Coordination across Service Systems

5

hearings and participation in prison-based
programs) do not conflict.29
• Decreased parent-child interactions during
incarceration can lead to numerous challenges
when parents return from prison or jail back
into the home or into renewed contact with
their children. When appropriate, the state
corrections department and service agencies,
such as mental health providers, can ensure
that children receive needed services during
the parental reentry period to assist in the
transition.
States across the country are taking
steps to improve the coordination of
services among the courts, corrections,
human services, and child welfare
agencies.
• Washington
As mentioned in the previous section, in
2005, the Department of Corrections, in
partnership with the Department of Social
and Health Services, established an oversight
committee as mandated by House Bill 1426
to develop a comprehensive interagency
plan to provide the necessary services and
supports for children whose parents are
incarcerated in jail or prison.30 Specifically,
the committee was charged with identifying
existing programs and services for children
of incarcerated parents, developing strategies
to improve collaboration between such
programs, and recommending new services
and programs that could benefit these
children. In 2006, the committee submitted
its report and recommendations to the
governor and state legislature.31 In 2007,
another bill established a statewide advisory
committee facilitated by the Department
of Community, Trade and Economic
Development (CTED) with the Department
of Social and Health Services, Department of
Corrections, Department of Early Learning,

6

and Office of the Superintendent of Public
Instruction along with legislators, community
partners, and other state agencies. In January
2009 the committee completed a report to
the legislature summarizing its work and
recommendations to state agencies on
children of incarcerated parents.
• Oregon
The Oregon multi-agency planning and
advisory committee, established by the
legislature in 2001, was created to make
recommendations on how to increase family
bonding for children of incarcerated parents
when appropriate. The committee is made up
of members from the state departments of
corrections, human services, and education;
the state Commission on Children and
Families; the state Court Administrator,
and a multitude of local law enforcement,
public health, and social service agencies. In
2002, this multi-agency collaborative group
submitted a report to the state legislature with
recommendations for creating policies and
programs to improve relationships between
incarcerated parents and their children.32
• California
In 2000, the California Research Bureau
(CRB) published a report on children of
incarcerated parents that highlighted the
fact that many of these children appear in
multiple systems, such as foster care and
juvenile detention.33 This initial report
triggered the CRB to undertake a five-year
research project, resulting in five reports
and several legislative policy seminars. In
2006, the CRB convened a daylong summit at
which over 150 participants from more than
twenty counties and state agencies reviewed
the latest research and data on the impact of
parental arrest on children’s safety, including
promising strategies employed in different
jurisdictions to improve coordination between
law enforcement and child welfare services.34

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Recommendations

1. Establish a federal interagency task force that includes leaders from Health and Human
Services, the Department of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department
of Education to improve coordination at the federal level and implement policy changes
related to children of incarcerated parents.
2. Support the creation of state task forces to leverage the resources of agencies already in
contact with these children. The state task force can help identify existing government
and nonprofit programs and services for children of incarcerated parents, identify gaps in
services, and devise strategies for improving coordination among agencies. Task forces should
include adult children of incarcerated parents, kinship caregivers, and formerly incarcerated
parents.
3. Create a federal demonstration grant program to provide comprehensive services for children
of incarcerated parents, in which awards are made to applicants that ensure their planning
and implementation work will be based on the collaboration of both criminal justice and
human service agencies in their assessments and child and caregiver services.
4. Facilitate cooperation between child welfare agencies and corrections departments to provide
families of incarcerated parents with needed supports. Encourage caseworkers to involve
parents in permanency planning, when appropriate, and to support visits and other contact
between incarcerated parents and their children, when in the best interest of the child, and
help families plan for reentry.
5. Establish a navigator system, modeled after kinship navigator systems, that spans programs
and systems that are accessible to a broad array of caregivers and families in contact with the
criminal justice system to link them to needed services and information.
6. Develop state collaborative information systems between partner agencies and other state
systems so that data on criminal justice, child welfare, and social service populations can be
effectively shared and analyzed, as appropriate.
7. Implement assessment and screening processes within a broad spectrum of agencies and
groups that may have contacts with parents and children to better connect children of
incarcerated parents to services and supports.
8. Provide cross-training for leaders and practitioners from relevant systems in contact with
children of incarcerated parents (corrections, child welfare, schools, health, mental health,
juvenile justice, and courts) to highlight the impact of incarceration on children and families
and to teach strategies for improving coordination.
9. Corrections agencies should establish and support cross-system reentry plans and program
benchmarks for incarcerated parents, particularly for those who will regain custody of their
children after release or who will co-parent. Provide needed services such as substance abuse
and mental health treatment or parenting classes before release and adequate community
supports and services post-release.

Coordination across Service Systems

7

10. Engage judges and court administrators to improve parental access to judicial proceedings
and mediation, effective collaboration with child welfare agencies, oversight of child welfare
cases, and accountability for child outcomes.35
11. Provide child welfare and human service programs with the tools to ensure children of
incarcerated parents and their custodial parents, foster families, or kinship families have
access to supportive services, including mental health services, substance abuse treatment,
parenting courses, employment services, housing aid, and financial assistance. Make
information available to caregivers through a Web site or 211 directories to ensure access and
create lines of communications for caregivers to discuss their needs with service providers.

8

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Responses to Children
during a Parent’s Arrest
The Problem
Children face both immediate and longterm risks when a parent is arrested.
• The arrest of a parent can be traumatic and
confusing for minor children, especially when
they witness the event.
• A 1998 national study estimated that of the
parents arrested, 67 percent were handcuffed
in front of their children, 27 percent reported
weapons were drawn, 4.3 percent reported a
physical struggle, and 3.2 percent reported the
use of pepper spray.36
• Children may exhibit a variety of long-term
effects after a parent’s arrest, including
emotional and behavioral problems,
depression, difficulty in school, and
delinquent behavior.37
• Law enforcement agencies require special
protocols and support from child services
to respond to minors who are present at the
scene of an arrest, particularly if the presence
of a child is unforeseen.
Most law enforcement agencies have
no policies to guide officers responding
when children are present at the scene
of an arrest not involving abuse or
neglect.

training and protocols are often lacking
in circumstances when the presence of
children is not expected during an arrest
(e.g., traffic stop, shoplifting, warrant sweeps,
routine patrol). A nationwide review of law
enforcement protocols found that most
agencies offer little guidance on officers’
roles in ensuring the safety of a child whose
custodial parent has been arrested.39
• The same study found there are few
uniform policies for law enforcement to help
determine where these children will be placed
or if services will be needed.40
Most law enforcement agencies have
only formal protocols to coordinate with
CPS in cases of abuse and neglect to
respond to the needs of children affected
by a parent’s arrest.
• Law enforcement officials are generally
mandated to contact CPS when responding to
reports of abuse or neglect. Once contacted,
CPS will, in most circumstances, remove the
children from their home to be evaluated and
to determine if a family member can care for
the child.41
• Coordination with CPS also typically happens
when officers respond to reports of domestic
violence and there is no suitable adult to care
for the children when the parents are arrested.

• Law enforcement officers attempting to
place children with an appropriate adult after
the arrest of a parent may not be trained to
recognize or address the trauma of an arrest
on children.38
• Although police departments are mandated
reporters of abuse and have protocols for
responding to children in situations involving
child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence,

• CPS workers may also contact law
enforcement officials to inquire about
outstanding warrants or to report suspected
crimes, most often drug-related, so that if an
arrest is made, there can be a plan in place for
ensuring the safe placement of a child.

Responses to Children during a Parent’s Arrest

9

Promising Practices
Several state and local governments
have developed a variety of
programs, commissions, training,
and policies to better serve children
at the time of a parent’s arrest.
• Austin Police Department: The Austin, Texas,
Police Department implemented a child
endangerment/child-in-need-of-supervision
checklist to ensure the safety of children
during the arrest of a parent or caregiver. The
checklist includes steps for the safe placement
of the child, and consultation and follow-up
with child protective services as necessary by
Austin PD officers.
• Blue Ribbon Commission on the Welfare of
Children of Jailed and Incarcerated Parents
(NM): In 2006, Governor Bill Richardson
of New Mexico issued an executive order
establishing a Blue Ribbon commission to
review the impact of existing law enforcement
and corrections policies on children whose
parents are arrested and incarcerated.
The commission’s report contained four
major recommendations, the first of which
was to create a statewide standard for
law enforcement to identify children on
parental arrest and ensure that their needs
are adequately addressed. As a result of this
report, law enforcement officers across the
state are now trained to respond to children at
the time of a parent’s arrest.42
• San Francisco Children of Incarcerated
Parents Partnership: In San Francisco, a
collaboration of local law enforcement, child
welfare services and community agencies
developed a joint protocol to ensure the safety
and well-being of children at the time of all
arrests, including recommendations for law
enforcement prior to, during, and after an
arrest where a child is present.43

10

• Children of Incarcerated Parents Project
(OR): In 2002, Oregon’s multi-agency
working group on children of incarcerated
parents submitted a report to the legislature,
which included a recommended checklist of
procedures for law enforcement officers to
ensure the safety of children when a parent is
arrested. It included measures for minimizing
trauma to the child, using age-appropriate
explanations, seeking appropriate care, and
providing for children not present at the arrest
of a parent a temporary caregiver.44
• Law Enforcement Training: The California
Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)
Commission—the statewide body responsible
for establishing professional standards
and training protocols for law enforcement
agencies—has developed guidelines for
keeping children safe when a parent is
arrested, published guidelines and training
topics for use by law enforcement agencies,
and created a training DVD that is mandated
for inclusion in all peace officers’ training in
California, How to Ensure Child Safety at the
Time of Parental Arrest.45
• Model Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU): In a 2006 report, the California
Research Bureau presented a model protocol
to guide law enforcement and other local
agencies in responding to children whose
parents are arrested. The protocol outlines an
agreement (MOU) between various agencies
to develop and implement a coordinated
response to all arrests in which children are
present and/or are living in the household of
the arrestee. It also establishes a consistent
approach to keeping these children safe and
well cared for.46

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Recommendations

1. Support a review of law enforcement policies related to arrests of individuals whose children
(or children under their care) are present at the time they are taken into custody, and
individuals whose children may return home and be unattended because of their arrest.
2. Encourage the development of policy standards at the local or state level in cooperation with
law enforcement on the response to the arrest of a caretaker parent or guardian of a minor
child to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
3. Collect and disseminate program and policy examples from law enforcement agencies who
have adopted promising approaches to unforeseen contact with children of incarcerated
parents.
4. Share widely best practices on developing formal partnerships among law enforcement, child
welfare agencies, and other providers to coordinate services for children of arrested parents.
5. Develop systems to collect data on the number and percentage of (1) arrestees who are
custodial parents, and (2) children present at the time of arrest or who were left unattended
because of the arrest, to document the breadth of the problem and understand the
circumstances that lead to such arrests.
6. Support the implementation of training and protocols to minimize as much as possible
the trauma to a child who is present during an arrest and sensitize arresting officers to the
potential long-term impact.
7. Encourage local jurisdictions to adopt identified best practices for improving responses to
children who are present during a parent’s arrest.
8. Conduct additional research on the impact of parental arrest when a child is present,
including the effects of home raids on children and the success of existing protocols and
training tools to minimize risk.

Responses to Children during a Parent’s Arrest

11

Parent-Child Interactions
within Correctional Systems
The Problem
As the number of people in prison has
increased over the past 20 years, so
too has the number of children visiting
correctional facilities.
• Approximately 79 percent of parents in prison
reported having some form of contact with
their children while incarcerated, including
phone calls, letters, and visits.47 Only 39
percent of fathers and 56 percent of mothers
in prison reported at least weekly contact with
a child through letters, telephone calls, or
visitation.48
• In 2004, four percent of women in state
prisons and three percent of women in
federal prisons were pregnant at the time of
admittance.49 And a 1999 report indicates that
six percent of women in jails were pregnant at
the time of booking.50
• According to an analysis of the 2003 Survey
of Youth in Residential Placement data, one
in eleven youth returning from residential
placement said they had children of their own.
Among girls, six percent said they had at least
one child and an additional four percent said
they were expecting.51
Research has shown that children
may benefit from maintaining healthy
relationships with their incarcerated
parents.
• There is some evidence that children who
maintain close ties with their incarcerated
parents experience less emotional distress
and exhibit fewer problematic behaviors than
children who do not have contact with their
parents. Maintaining contact has been shown
to be particularly beneficial in cases where the

parent had a significant presence in the child’s
life prior to being incarcerated.52
• Strong parent-child relationships may aid
in children’s adjustment to their parents’
incarceration and help to mitigate many of
the negative outcomes for children that are
associated with parental incarceration.53
• Maintaining contact also helps the
incarcerated parent by improving the
reentry process and reducing recidivism,
which would likely benefit the child.54
• Corrections staff may benefit from training on
the treatment of visiting children and familyfriendly visitation settings.55
Practical and institutional concerns
may create barriers that often prevent
children from maintaining contact with
their incarcerated parents.
• More than half of mothers and fathers in
state prisons report having received no inperson visits from their children since their
admission. In addition, parents with multiple
children may receive visits from some
children, but not from others.56
• Most parents in state and federal prisons
are located more than 100 miles from their
previous residence,57 making in-person visits
inconvenient and unaffordable for many
families and caregivers.
• Prison visitation areas tend to be inhospitable
to children, and correctional policies and
practices may deter or prevent families from
maintaining contact with their incarcerated
loved ones.58

Parent-Child Interactions within Correctional Systems

13

• High prison telephone rates can create a
financial burden for families with a loved
one in prison.59

Although it is usually in children’s
best interest to maintain contact with
their incarcerated parents, there are
circumstances in which it is not.

Prisons and jails operate under a strict
set of policies and procedures designed
to protect visitors, the corrections staff,
and individuals under their supervision.
Visitors may sometimes be unfamiliar
with or confused by these rules and
regulations.

• Caregivers and caseworkers should determine
the appropriateness of parental visitation on a
case-by-case basis and only when in the child’s
best interests.60 Contact between children
subject to abuse or dangerous activities by the
incarcerated parent should not be promoted.61

• Visitation sessions can present challenges
for corrections staff, as children and families
can often misinterpret safety policies (for
example, limitations on physical contact and
eligible visitors) as impeding connection with
their family members.
• Staff members assigned to monitor visits
often worry that if they do not strictly
uphold institution rules and regulations,
their supervisors will sanction them; but the
visiting children or family members may
perceive unyielding adherence to rules as
being inflexible or uncaring.

• Research suggests that children of
incarcerated parents are more likely to live
with caregivers who abuse drugs and have
mental health problems, and to experience
sexual or physical abuse and neglect.62 Often,
the incarceration of a parent in crisis may
benefit their children and any further contact
should be managed carefully.

Promising Practices
Some state government officials,
lawmakers, and service providers have
changed visitation areas and procedures
to improve corrections settings for
children and families.
• Within the Kansas Department of Corrections’
only women’s facility, mothers in prison
participate in parenting classes and receive
an all-day visit with their children to reward
successful completion. The institution also
remodeled visitation areas to be bright and
colorful, with toys, books, and partitions for
privacy encouraging an intimate and positive
visiting experience. Family Transitions classes
and workshops are also offered, allowing the
women and families to address issues such as
communication, expectations, and forgiveness
prior to release. Within most of the male

14

facilities, standardized parenting classes, Play
and Learn sessions, caregiver support groups,
and Family Transitions workshops are in place
or are being added.
• The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation
and Correction, in partnership with the
Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives and the Department
of Job and Family Services, operates eleven
family reentry programs funded through
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Included in these programs is the Children
of Incarcerated Parents: Breaking the
Cycle Program, the Ohio Strengthening
Families Initiative, and the Returning Home
Demonstration Programs. Each of these
programs provides support to incarcerated
individuals and their family members both

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

pre- and post-release through the use of
strengths-based family case management and
various structured curricula. Each program
provides clients the opportunity to enroll
in the Ohio Benefit Bank, a Web-based,
counselor-assisted application program that
allows low-income Ohioans to get connected
with economic supports. The Children of
Incarcerated Parents Program, which began in
2004, provided services to nearly 600 families
in the following four years. For families that
successfully completed the program, results
indicated there were significant positive
changes in overall family experiences with
reentry.
Many state and local governments
and nonprofit providers have created
programs designed to strengthen
healthy parent-child relationships and
improve the outcomes for both the child
and parent.
• Community and faith-based programs. In
many communities, nonprofit organizations,
churches, and faith-based organizations offer
a range of social services to assist people
in prison and their children and families.
Programs that focus specifically on children
with parents in prison typically provide
mentoring services and help children build
relationships with their incarcerated parents.
Amachi
The Amachi program is a partnership
of secular and faith-based organizations
working together to provide mentoring
to children of incarcerated parents. The
program began in 2000 as a partnership
between Public/Private Ventures and
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern
Pennsylvania with funding from The
Pew Charitable Trusts. It now operates
nationwide.63 In the Amachi program,
faith-based institutions work with
community-based service providers and
local agencies to identify children of
prisoners and match them with caring and
responsible adults who serve as mentors.

Become-a-Star
The Become-a-Star program, also known as
Club Buddies, is coordinated by the Boys
and Girls Club of Benton County, Arkansas,
to provide mentoring services to children of
incarcerated parents. The program began
in 2006 with funding support from the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
and is offered in partnership with the local
United Way. In the Become-a-Star program,
mentors meet once a week with children of
prisoners to provide one-on-one supportive
relationships. The program also organizes
quarterly group events, including outings to
movies, ballgames, and other activities that
provide a forum for the children and their
mentors to connect with other program
participants.
Angel Tree
Coordinated by Prison Fellowship
Ministries (PFM), the Angel Tree program
provides Christmas gifts to children of
incarcerated parents. During the holiday
season, church volunteers purchase and
deliver gifts to the children of incarcerated
parents in their parent’s name. PFM also
encourages congregations who participate in
the Angel Tree program to provide ongoing
support for these children and their families
by establishing volunteer mentoring
programs, organizing camping trips and
other fun activities for children, and helping
children to maintain contact with their
incarcerated parents, when appropriate.64
• Parent-child visitation. Visitation programs
enable children to maintain contact with their
incarcerated parents, when it is appropriate
and in their best interest to do so.
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars
Established in 1992 through a partnership
with the National Institute of Justice, Girl
Scouts Beyond Bars allows girls to visit
their incarcerated mothers on a regular
basis and take part in mother/daughter
Girl Scout troop meetings. Incarcerated
mothers lead troop meetings and develop
skills in leadership, conflict resolution, and

Parent-Child Interactions within Correctional Systems

15

parenting. In addition, the girls and their
mothers often have facilitated discussions
about family life, violence, drug abuse
prevention, and other issues that affect their
lives.65
Comprehensive Community Action Project
The Rhode Island Department
of Corrections contracts with the
Comprehensive Community Action
Program (C-CAP) to provide visitation
programs in several of its correctional
facilities so that incarcerated mothers
and fathers can remain involved in their
children’s lives, when appropriate. Held on
Saturday mornings, these visits allow the
children to get down on the floor with their
parents and play with a wide selection of
donated or DOC-provided toys. Parents can
focus all of their attention on their kids with
no other adult visitors present.
• Child-in-residence programs. Child-inresidence programs foster mother-child
bonding by allowing mothers who give birth
while they are incarcerated to maintain
custody of their newborn children and care
for them within the correctional facility.
Evaluations of these types of programs
suggest that children can be cared for safely
in institutional as well as community-based
settings.66 Nursery programs have also been
shown to provide cost-savings to states. For
example, Nebraska’s nursery program has
saved the state’s foster care system more than
$8,000 per child in avoiding adoption and
foster care costs.67 It is important to note that
child-in-residence programs should develop
strict guidelines to ensure proper health and
safety standards for infants and mothers.
Washington State’s Residential
Parenting Program
Based at the Washington Corrections Center
for Women (WCCW), the Residential
Parenting Program allows women classified
for minimum security and sentenced to
terms of less than three years to not only

16

keep their infant children in a designated
housing unit, but also to receive parenting
classes. Established in 1999, the program
uses volunteer doulas—childbirth
professionals—to provide emotional and
informational support to expectant mothers.
The doulas work with program participants
as well as women throughout the prison to
provide one-on-one counseling, advice on
childbirth and child-rearing, and courses on
family planning.68 WCCW and Early Head
Start help provide services for children and
their mothers. Mothers in the program are
required to participate in programming
that addresses factors related to their
incarceration and improve their success
on release.
Achieving Baby Care Success Nursery
In 2001, the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC)
opened the Achieving Baby Care Success
(ABCS) nursery at the state’s Reformatory
for Women. Corrections officials modeled
the nursery after existing child-in-residence
programs at other state correctional
facilities, including those in New York,
Nebraska, and Washington. ABCS can
accommodate up to 20 mothers and their
children. Eligible mothers for the program
must be serving a short-term sentence for a
nonviolent crime. Mothers in the program
are located in a separate wing of the prison
with their babies and receive hands-on
parenting instruction. The criteria for the
program ensure that the mothers and
infants leave the institution together.69
• Community-based residential parenting
programs. Community-based residential
parenting programs allow pregnant
mothers, and mothers with young children,
to serve their sentence in a supervised
community-based program, rather than
prison, to maintain custody of their
children and participate in parenting and
treatment programs. These programs,
available primarily to individuals charged

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

with nonviolent crimes, offer mothers the
opportunity to remain united with their
children and to continue as their caregiver
on release from prison.70
Family Systems Investment Consortium
and Project BOND
The Family Systems Investment
Consortium (FSIC) is composed of local
government agencies, community-based
organizations, and educators that are
working together to improve supports and
services for children and families in Marion
County, Oregon. The FSIC’s Project BOND
allows eligible women who are pregnant
or have young children to enter a diversion
program rather than serve time in jail.71
Lovelady Center
Based in Birmingham, the Lovelady Center
provides an alternative to incarceration for
women in Alabama. Women participate in
a 9- to 12-month faith-based program that
provides substance abuse treatment, job
training, and parenting classes. Children
who live in the facility with their parents
may attend summer camps, bible study, and
daycare.72
• Support groups for children. To help
children cope with difficult situations, some
organizations offer counseling services,
peer-to-peer support groups that encourage
children to share their experiences, and group
social activities.
Foreverfamily
Based in Atlanta, Foreverfamily is a national
organization that offers two programs for
children of incarcerated parents that foster
personal development and teambuilding.

The Teen Leadership program provides
an open forum for adolescents to share
their experiences, gain leadership skills,
and serve as mentors to younger children.
The Foreverfamily Summer Camp brings
children of all ages from the Atlanta and
Louisville, Kentucky, programs together for
a week of personal development and fun
cultural enrichment activities.73
• Parenting education programs. Some
correctional facilities have developed
educational programming to help parents
build healthy relationships with their children
and serve as positive role models. While
there has been limited research on the
effectiveness of these types of programs, it is
known that good parenting and strong parentchild relationships improve outcomes for
children.74
Living Interactive Family Education Program
University of Missouri Extension’s 4-H Living
Interactive Family Education (LIFE) program
provides enhanced visitation and parenting
skills training for qualified incarcerated
parents at three of the state’s correctional
centers. All incarcerated parents who
participate in the 4-H LIFE program attend
weekly parenting skills classes where they
learn how they can be a positive influence
in their children’s lives. Parenting classes
focus on topics such as communication,
anger management, teamwork, and positive
discipline. Participants and the caregivers
raising the children report that the program
helps them develop stronger relationships
and communicate more effectively with one
another.75

Parent-Child Interactions within Correctional Systems

17

Recommendations
1. Encourage state corrections agencies to form collaborative partnerships with child welfare,
child support enforcement, education, labor, health, and human services agencies, as well
as community-based organizations, to improve services to incarcerated parents and children
visiting corrections facilities.
2. Identify and adapt promising policies and practices that orient visitors to the backgroundcheck process, security regulations, and evacuation procedures, as well as why these rules
are needed.
3. Identify strategies to improve visitation settings without compromising safety.
4. Provide cross-training for corrections staff and child welfare caseworkers to highlight the
impact of incarceration on children and families, and facilitate collaborations between the
agencies to improve visitation and policies that can strengthen families when it is in the best
interests of the children.
5. Promote promising practices of state and local corrections and child protection agencies
to eliminate barriers to contact between incarcerated parents and their children, when
appropriate.
6. Identify additional strategies to keep families connected and facilitate healthy parent-child
contact to complement in-person visits (such as reading books on tape, teleconferencing, or
other outreach).
7. Engage courts to help reduce trauma or strain experienced by children as a result of
parental incarceration by recommending that parents be incarcerated in proximity to their
children, when not detrimental to the children, and require parents to enroll in appropriate
programming, such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, parenting classes, or
domestic violence intervention.
8. Provide parenting education classes that are specifically designed for incarcerated parents
in the corrections setting and provide other services and resources that address trauma,
substance abuse, mental health, inadequate education, and other problems that may affect
parent-child relationships. These services are most effective when they are connected to
visiting programs and when the current caregivers are included in the parenting class
through mailed materials or complementary classes in the community.
9. Include child welfare case workers and family members—or their advocates—in discharge
planning discussions.
10. Evaluate parent-child programs and policies to determine not only how many people with
a demonstrated need participate in these programs, but also the outcomes for program
participants and their children.

18

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Support for Kinship Caregivers
of Children Whose Parents Are
Incarcerated
The Problem
A large percentage of children of
incarcerated parents are cared for by the
other parent or other relatives during
parental incarceration; these caregivers
face multiple challenges.
• While most children with an incarcerated
parent in state prison live with the other
parent, more than one-fifth of children live
with grandparents or other relatives76—
who are considered kinship caregivers.77
• According to a 2008 Bureau of Justice
Statistics report, 67 percent of incarcerated
mothers reported having a child placed with a
grandparent or other relatives.78 Non-parental
caregivers face multiple challenges, such as
enrolling children in school and obtaining
government services for them.
• About one-quarter of all children in foster care
are living with relatives.79
Kinship caregivers encounter many
difficulties, particularly when the child
has an incarcerated parent.
older,80

• On average, kinship caregivers are
poorer,81 more likely to be single, and less
educated than non-relative caregivers.82

• Kinship caregivers need assistance accessing a
range of services and supports, for themselves
and the children in their care. Common
service needs include legal services, physical
and mental health care, child care, housing,
education, and financial services.83

• Kinship caregivers of children with a parent
in prison face a range of distinct challenges,
including arranging transportation for
prison visits, paying for collect calls from
the incarcerated parent, helping children
cope with the emotional trauma associated
with parental incarceration, and confronting
the stigma associated with a relative’s
incarceration, especially when the caregiver
is also the parent of the incarcerated
individual.84
Despite the challenges, research
suggests that kinship placement can
result in better outcomes for children
than non-kinship placements.
• Kinship care provides an alternative to
institutional and non-familial foster care.
Children in kinship care generally experience
greater stability than those in foster care.85
Research suggests that they experience fewer
placement changes than children placed with
foster parents with whom they are unrelated.86
• Compared with children in non-familial foster
care, children in kinship care have better
attachments to their caregivers and fewer
behavior and school problems.87
• Children removed from their homes after
reports of maltreatment have significantly
fewer behavior problems three years after
placement with relatives than children put
into non-familial foster care.88
• Children in foster care are more likely to live
with their siblings if they are placed with
relatives.89

Support for Kinship Caregivers of Children Whose Parents Are Incarcerated

19

Promising Practices
There are a number of services and
supports that can assist children of
incarcerated parents and their kinship
caregivers.
• Kinship navigator programs are designed
to provide these caregivers with referrals
to needed services and information. In
Washington State, for example, policymakers
have expanded funding to support navigator
programs, which help facilitate linkages with
local resources such as caregiver support
groups, training, and respite care.90
• Financial assistance is available, including
subsidized guardianship, one-time cash
payments, and federal benefits such as
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF), to defray the costs of integrating a
child into the caregiver’s home.91
• Legal assistance can be accessed to help
caregivers obtain the authority to make

educational and medical decisions on behalf
of the children in their care.
• Resource or 211 directories, navigator
systems, or libraries may provide listings of
respite care, support groups, counseling, child
care, and other services for caregivers.
Several state and federal laws have
been enacted to improve support for all
kinship caregivers.
• In Washington, Kentucky, New York, and
Connecticut, lawmakers have appropriated
funds for kinship navigator programs to assist
kinship caregivers with service referral and
support.92
• As of 2008, school enrollment laws have been
enacted in thirty states that allow kinship
caregivers to enroll a child in school.93

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act
Signed into law on October 7, 2008, the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing
Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) helps children in foster care by promoting permanent families for them
through relative guardianship and adoption and improving education and health care.

 Subsidized Guardianship Payments for Relatives. Helps children in foster care leave care to live
permanently with grandparents and other relative guardians when they cannot be returned home
or adopted. Includes federal support to states to assist with subsidized guardianship payments to
these families.

 Notice to Relatives When Children Enter Care. Increases opportunities for relatives to step in
when children are removed from their parents and placed in foster care by ensuring they are notified
of a removal.

 Kinship Navigator Programs. Creates grants for Kinship Navigator programs, through new Family
Connection grants, to help connect children living with relatives, both in and out of foster care, to
supports and assistance they need.

 Commitment to Keeping Siblings Together. Preserves the sibling bond for children by requiring
states to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together when they must be removed from
their parents’ home, provided it is in the children’s best interests. In the case of siblings not placed
together, states must make reasonable efforts to provide for frequent visitation or other ongoing
interaction.
Excerpted from Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act summary,
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).94 (Reprinted with permission.)

20

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Recommendations

1. Ensure adequate funding and effective implementation of the initiatives included in the
Fostering Connections to Success law and provide assistance to grantees to implement
promising or evidence-based programs.
2. Identify promising examples of kinship navigator programs and disseminate this information
to the field.
3. Develop and implement mechanisms and effective practices for connecting relative caregivers
who are not involved in the child welfare system with the community supports and services
they need. Establish policies and fund programs that permit kinship care agencies to serve
families that are not in the child welfare system.
4. Adopt model policies and practices concerning notification of relatives when a child enters
foster care to assist with implementation.
5. Reevaluate arbitrary age limits placed on potential kinship caregivers; make case-by-case
determinations and reconsider restrictions based on age alone.
6. Identify and expand housing opportunities for relative caregivers and their children,
especially for senior caregivers who may live in senior public housing that does not permit
children to live on the premises.
7. Implement a dissemination strategy to reach various caregivers and provide information
about available resources, such as navigator systems, respite care, support groups,
counseling, legal services, and child care. Employ various types of media, including public
service announcements through radio and television, 211 information directories, Internet
sites, and through partner service providers.

Support for Kinship Caregivers of Children Whose Parents Are Incarcerated

21

Foster Care and Permanence
The Problem
Nearly 30,000 children, or
approximately 6 percent of all children
entering foster care, entered the system
due to parental incarceration in 2003.95
These children need support and
services to address their needs.
• Approximately 11 percent of women in prison
and 2 percent of men in prison report having
children in a foster home or institution.96
• Approximately one-quarter of all children in
foster care are living with relatives.97
• About 70 percent of children leave the system
to be reunited with their families or placed
with relatives.98
• Lengthy stays in foster care and frequent
moves are associated with poor outcomes
for children, including school failure,
teen pregnancy, homelessness, and
unemployment.99
• Child welfare experts agree that children
in foster care need permanency quickly.
When parental reunification is not possible,

state agencies must act to secure a safe and
permanent home.100
Foster care placement and parental
incarceration present additional
challenges for permanency, stability,
and the well-being of the child.
• While reunification is the goal for the majority
of children in foster care, there is some
evidence that children of incarcerated parents
in foster care are less likely to be reunited with
their parents than other children in foster
care.101
• For incarcerated mothers, research indicates
that in most cases the mother’s incarceration
was not the initial reason the child was placed
in foster care,102 indicating the complex issues
that must be considered to provide safety and
stability for the child. In a study of mothers
who were incarcerated in Illinois State prisons
and the Cook County Jail in Chicago from
1990 to 2000, in 75 percent of the cases the
child was placed in foster care prior to his or
her mother’s first incarceration.103

The Adoption and Safe Families Act
The 1997 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted to ensure that children did not
remain in the foster care system for an extended period of time. ASFA is intended to move foster
children more quickly to permanency by, among other things, shortening judicial timeframes, requiring
proceedings to terminate parental rights in certain cases, and clarifying the requirement in federal law
for reasonable efforts to avoid out-of-home placement.
ASFA requires states, with certain exceptions, to file a petition to terminate parental rights on
behalf of a child who has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months or who has been
determined by a court to be an abandoned infant.
The law provides exceptions to this requirement in the following cases: 1) the child is being cared
for by a relative, 2) the state finds that termination of parental rights would not be in the child’s best
interest, or 3) the state has not provided appropriate services for the safe return of the child to his or her
home.

Foster Care and Permanence

23

• The subset of children of incarcerated parents
who are placed in foster care as a result of
parental substance abuse, mental illness, or
child maltreatment, particularly those who
are placed with non-relative foster parents, are
more likely to receive multiple placements.104
• Children of incarcerated parents are four
times more likely than other children to
remain in foster care until they “age out” of
the system.105
When termination of parental rights
occurs and other options for permanent
placement are not available, adoption is
a tool to achieve permanence.
• Nationwide there are many thousands of
children in the foster care system waiting for
permanent families.106
• Some of the requirements of the 1997 federal
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA),
in particular the timeline specified for
termination of parental rights, would appear
to affect parents in prison and jail and their
children, though there are minimal data to
determine the extent. Since the enactment
of ASFA, many states have amended their

termination of parental rights (TPR) statutes
to include parental incarceration as a factor
courts must consider in determining whether
to terminate parental rights.107
• There is some evidence that termination
of parental rights for incarcerated mothers
and fathers has increased since ASFA was
passed.108 This is of particular concern given
that the number of children with a mother in
prison has increased significantly over the last
decade.109
• ASFA, however, allows for considerable state
flexibility with regard to the TPR requirement.
The statute provides exceptions to the TPR
requirement when children are in the care of
relatives, the child welfare agency documents
a compelling reason why filing for TPR is not
in the child’s best interest, or the agency has
not provided the child’s family with services
deemed necessary for reunification. There is
room within the ASFA framework for child
welfare agencies to plan for reunification of
a child with his or her incarcerated parent
upon release, should that be in the child’s best
interest, provided that the child maintains a
relationship with the parent through regular
visits and other contacts.110

Promising Practices
Many states have enacted laws to
improve reunification services and
clarify termination of parental rights
guidelines that affect children of
incarcerated parents.
• New York state law requires child welfare
agencies to make “diligent efforts” to
encourage contact between a child and an
incarcerated parent at risk of losing parental
rights.111
• California law requires a court to order
reasonable reunification services for an
incarcerated parent and his or her child if
in the best interest of the child. Services
that corrections or other state agencies may

24

be required to provide so that incarcerated
parents can maintain contact include
telephone calls, transportation services, and
assistance to extended family members or
foster parents.112
• Colorado law provides an additional exception
to the termination of parental rights if a child
was in foster care 15 of the past 22 months so
that it does not apply when a child’s stay in
foster care is beyond the control of the parent,
such as incarceration.113
• A number of states, including Massachusetts,
Nebraska, and New Mexico, have established
that a parent’s incarceration, in and of itself, is
not sufficient grounds for TPR.114

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Recommendations

1. Analyze the impact of ASFA on children of incarcerated parents who are in foster care.
2. Provide a more detailed definition of ASFA’s “reasonable efforts” requirement.
3. Conduct outreach to child welfare agencies and caseworkers to educate them on the
exceptions to the 15-out-of-22 months TPR filing requirement.
4. Clarify that incarceration alone is not grounds for termination of parental rights, does not
diminish the requirement for reasonable efforts to reunify a child with his or her parent on
release from prison or jail, and does not negate the requirement for reasonable parent-child
visitation while the child is in foster care.115
5. Implement policies and establish procedures for limiting the disruption and trauma that
children of incarcerated parents in foster care may experience, especially for children with
multiple placements, based on individualized reviews of each family’s case history. Such
policies may address
• placement of siblings together, when appropriate;
• placement with relatives and/or near the child’s home, when appropriate;
• stable school enrollment regardless of changes in foster placement;
• regular parent-child visitation, when not detrimental to the child;
• contact with other family members;
• preservation of relationships with friends and important adults in the child’s life.
6. Ensure that incarcerated parents understand and have the opportunity to participate
meaningfully in dependency proceedings involving their children in foster care and are
provided legal representation that is competent and consistent.
7. Develop recommendations that address voluntary (not directed by CPS) family preservation
services for families affected by incarceration.

Foster Care and Permanence

25

Child Support
The Problem
Helping parents who have been
incarcerated meet child support
obligations for their minor children can
improve family outcomes and their son
or daughter’s well-being.

• Most incarcerated parents with child support
orders accrue large amounts of debt while they
are in prison. One study of people released on
parole in Colorado found that they owed an
average of $16,600 in child support.119

• Studies indicate that children in low-income
families are more likely to receive regular
child support payments when the amount of
an order is reasonable and realistic, given the
parent’s income.116

• Incarcerated and recently released parents
account for between 16 and 18 percent of
the more than $107 billion in child support
arrears owed nationally.120

• Fathers who pay consistent child support are
more likely to be engaged with their children,
resulting in more positive financial and social
outcomes for families.117
Many incarcerated parents owe
significant child support payments, but
most do not have the means to pay.
• About a quarter of state prison inmates (and
half of all incarcerated parents) have open
child support cases.118

• Unless suspended or reduced during
incarceration, accumulated child support debt
can be a cause of stress in family relationships
and undermine the responsible parent’s
efforts to retain regular, legal employment
that will be a source for ongoing child support
payments upon release from prison or jail.121
• In addition to child support payments, parents
in prisons may also be responsible for court
fines, supervision fees, and surcharges—
financial obligations that, if not met, could
result in the individual being re-incarcerated
and unable to earn enough money to pay child
support.122

Promising Practices
States can employ various strategies to
facilitate parents’ compliance with child
support obligations after their release
from prison or jail.
• Across the country, states have employed
various strategies to improve collection rates
by reducing or suspending child support
obligations.

North Carolina
In 1995, North Carolina’s child support
statute was modified to allow individuals
the right to suspend their child support
orders during periods of incarceration
when they are not participating in work
release programs and are unable to make
payments.123

Child Support

27

Minnesota
To prevent arrears from accumulating, the
Minnesota Department of Human Services,
in collaboration with their Department of
Corrections, has a child support caseworker
stationed in its St. Cloud facility who assists
incarcerated parents with establishing
paternity and reviewing and modifying child
support orders.124
Kansas
The El Dorado Correctional Facility houses
the Reception and Diagnostic Unit where all
entering individuals are held for four to six
weeks. An on-site child support caseworker
meets with each individual to inquire
about current child support cases and
assist in all child support-related matters,
including interstate issues.125 Additionally,
the caseworker looks up every new inmate
in the child support system because some
do not realize they have a case or order.
Through a partnership between the Kansas
Department of Corrections and state Child
Support Enforcement, similar services are
provided to the women in Topeka by Child
Support Enforcement staff. Also Child
Support workers go into three other prisons
to assist individuals with these issues. The
two agencies have established practices and
protocols for arrearage management and
mitigation, and they are pursuing grants
for additional positions in the prisons
to manage child support issues with
individuals under their supervision.
Colorado
Colorado has a memorandum of
understanding with the Colorado Division
of Probation Services’ and the Colorado
Board of Parole’s personnel to share
pertinent information regarding a parent’s
child support obligations including the
amount of the order, arrearage, and the
county that has the order. Computer
programs have been developed to display
that shared information.126

28

Massachusetts
The Department of Revenue (DOR)
performs a data match on a list of
incarcerated people it receives from the
Department of Corrections (DOC) each
month. During this search, the DOR
identifies incarcerated parents with
outstanding child support orders. If
necessary, the DOR works with parents
to establish paternity and prepare child
support modification requests.127
Texas
In 2007, the Texas Office of the Attorney
General (OAG)—which handles child
support orders—launched an initiative
to remove the structural barriers to
modifying child support orders. Structural
barriers have included inadequate sharing
of accurate data between OAG and the
Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
incarcerated parents having difficulty
accessing legal resources, and problems
processing legal documents and gathering
evidence when the incarcerated parents
cannot appear in court. The project aims to
ensure that orders are set at an appropriate
level based on state child support guidelines,
to reduce accumulation of arrears, and to
promote compliance with child support
orders upon release. Some aspects of the
project are currently operational while
others are in development.128
Oregon
In 2003, Oregon’s child support statute
was modified to automatically reinstitute
child support payment amounts to preincarceration levels sixty days after release
from prison to offer parents sufficient time
to find employment.129

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Recommendations130

1. Use the National Electronic Child Support Resource System (https://ocse.acf.hhs.gov/
necsrs/) at sentencing to determine if a defendant owes child support, and where applicable,
order that child support to be paid.
2. Encourage staff and administrators of child support enforcement agencies at the state level to
use the Federal Case Registry (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/newhire/fcr/fcr.htm) to
help collect payments from parents in interstate child support enforcement cases.
3. Reach consensus that incarceration is not considered “voluntary unemployment” or
“abandonment” for the purposes of legal authorities governing child support enforcement
and streamline the review and adjustment processes for modifications of child support orders
for parents in prison who lack the financial resources to provide long-term economic support
to their children.
4. Expand the number of child support problem-solving courts.131
5. Notify child support collection agents when a noncustodial parent has been incarcerated, and
work with custodial parents to determine appropriate child support orders during the period
of incarceration.
6. Conduct matches between child support caseloads and prison records so that child support
agencies can proactively take steps to adjust orders as appropriate.
7. Use child support enforcement mechanisms short of incarceration, when appropriate, that
hold the noncustodial parent accountable but do not limit his or her ability to make future
child support payments.
8. Enhance outreach and communications so that parents who owe child support can monitor
their cases, take steps to avoid accruing arrearage, and consult with a caseworker if necessary.
9. Coordinate—and ideally integrate—distinct agencies’ policies, procedures, and information
systems related to financial obligations within child support agencies and criminal
justice institutions to improve collection rates and ensure that child support is prioritized
appropriately.
10. Ensure that new fines, fees, and surcharges do not reduce the ability of people returning from
prisons and jails to pay child support.
11. Implement policies and programs that help formerly incarcerated parents maintain
employment that will help them provide long-term support to their children.

Child Support

29

State and Federal Benefits
and Income Support
The Problem
Many children of incarcerated parents
need state and federal benefits and
income assistance—including funding
from Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (Food Stamps),
federal housing assistance programs,
Medicaid, and the State Children’s
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)—
as sources of support, whether they
reside with a single parent, relatives,
or foster parents.132
• In most cases, family income declines
significantly when a parent is incarcerated,
particularly when a father is incarcerated, and
often remains low after a parent is released
from prison.133 Though federal benefits to
incarcerated parents, such as Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, are
suspended or terminated either immediately
upon incarceration or following one year of
incarceration, children of prisoners remain
eligible to receive some benefits.
• Children with fathers who have been
incarcerated are 25 percent more likely to
experience material hardship than children
whose fathers have not been incarcerated.134
Children with fathers who have been
incarcerated are 40 percent more likely to
have an unemployed father, and children with
mothers who have been incarcerated are 17
percent more likely to have an unemployed
mother.135 Fathers who have been incarcerated
earn 19 percent less per hour and 38–79
percent less over a year than fathers of
similar demographics who have not been
incarcerated.136

• Although there is a lack of data about how
many children of incarcerated parents benefit
from state and federal health care, housing,
and income support programs, evidence
suggests that many of those children qualify
for support. More than a third (36 percent) of
mothers in prison report receiving government
benefits prior to incarceration.137 Children
with fathers who have been incarcerated
are 19 percent more likely to receive public
assistance, and children with mothers who
have been incarcerated are 11 percent more
likely to receive public assistance.138
• Four issues commonly affect the availability of
state and federal benefits and income support
for incarcerated parents and their children:
statutory bans that disqualify individuals with
criminal records from eligibility; the ease and
speed with which eligibility is restored upon
a parent’s release; enrolling individuals who
did not previously receive particular state
or federal benefits or income support; and
coordination of services and requirements for
recipients.
• Because the rules for eligibility are complex
and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,
corrections staff who conduct discharge
planning may not be familiar with the
different requirements of individual
state and federal benefits and income
support programs.139 These staff members
could benefit from training to help them
understand program eligibility and navigate
the application process so that an individual’s
application is either completed before release
or initiated so that community case managers
or providers can continue the process.140

State and Federal Benefits and Income Support

31

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)141
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF) is a block grant program administered
by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services that provides funds to states and tribes
to cover benefits, administrative expenses, and
services for qualifying families. States may use
their TANF funding in any manner reasonably
calculated to accomplish the program’s
purposes. Children of incarcerated parents
in a relative’s care may be eligible for TANF
child-only grants exclusive of their caregiver’s
income, and also may qualify for Medicaid.142
The Food Stamp Program, administered
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
now known as the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), provides lowincome households with coupons or electronic
benefits they can use like cash at most grocery
stores to ensure that they have access to a
healthy diet.
Both federal programs provide states with
broad flexibility to determine eligibility, method
of assistance, and benefit levels. However,
federal law imposes certain restrictions that
may affect children and families of people who
are or have been incarcerated:

32

• Federal law prohibits individuals who have
been convicted of drug-related felonies from
receiving TANF and SNAP unless they reside
in a state that has legislatively modified or
opted out of the ban.143
• When parents are eligible for TANF or SNAP
upon their release from prison or jail, it
can be difficult for them to establish their
eligibility and begin receiving benefits. It
may take several weeks for someone who
has been in prison to receive food stamps if
that individual does not apply before being
released, which is permitted because food
stamps are available to individuals and
households without children (including
incarcerated individuals who do not have their
children with them until released).144
• People who have outstanding warrants or
who are in violation of probation or parole
conditions are ineligible for food stamps
or TANF benefits in some states. Because
payment of court-ordered fines, fees, or
restitution is often a condition of probation
or parole, individuals who are unable to meet
their financial obligations are often excluded
from assistance that could benefit their
children.145

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Promising Practices
States may modify the restrictions for TANF
and SNAP benefits. As of 2005, twenty-one
states had narrowed the reach of the ban related
to drug felonies and twelve states had opted out
of the ban.146 Examples of state modifications
include
• providing assistance to individuals who have
enrolled in or completed an approved drug or
alcohol program;
• providing assistance to individuals who have
been convicted of drug possession, while
excluding benefits for those convicted of
manufacturing, selling, or trafficking drugs;
• imposing a time limit on the ban, so that
an individual’s eligibility is restored after a
certain period if they do not violate the terms
of their supervision or are convicted of a new
crime;
• exempting certain categories of individuals,
such as those with disabilities or dependents,
from the ban on federal benefits;
• imposing successful completion of drugtesting requirements as a condition of
eligibility.147

For many of these programs, correctional
systems can make agreements with state and
federal agencies that enable quicker access
for individuals on release. For example, in
administering social security and disability
benefits, the Social Security Administration
(SSA) has established procedures enabling
its local offices to provide support to public
institutions, including jails, prisons, and other
correctional facilities, to help inmates submit
applications while incarcerated. SSA will accept
and process inmates’ applications several
months before their anticipated release and
make a prospective determination of potential
eligibility and payment amount based on
anticipated circumstances.
As a result, benefits are payable as soon
as feasible after—sometimes even on the day
of—release. A formal or informal pre-release
agreement between the corrections facility and
SSA facilitates this process, but individuals
can also submit the forms and have their
applications handled expeditiously without such
an agreement.148

Recommendations
1. Provide training for state agencies that administer TANF and SNAP to help them better
respond to caregivers of children of incarcerated parents and parents returning home from
prison and jail.
2. Weigh the benefit of adopting rules that enable people with drug felonies to be eligible for
benefits upon release, or of modifying the ban so it does not apply to anyone who is in, or has
completed, an approved treatment program.
3. Encourage better coordination among courts, parole and probation authorities, and state
agencies to address parents’ competing work, treatment, and financial obligations and to
ensure they retain their benefits while trying to comply with the conditions of their release.149
4. Support training for corrections staff around federal benefit program eligibility and how to
navigate the application process to initiate benefits at the time of release.

State and Federal Benefits and Income Support

33

Housing Assistance
Having a safe, stable home is important to
all children, but particularly for those with
incarcerated parents, who are more likely to live
in poverty and experience household instability.
In 2004, 8.9 percent of parents in state prison
reported that they were homeless in the year
prior to their arrest.150 Mothers were twice as
likely as fathers to report homelessness.151
For those children who remain in foster care
while their parents are incarcerated, family
reunification depends on their parents’ ability to
find safe, affordable housing.
The U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD) administers two
main programs that provide housing assistance
to low-income families: public housing and the
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8).
• HUD provides federal aid to local housing
agencies that manage subsidized housing
developments in all sizes and types, from
scattered single family homes to high-rise
apartments. There are approximately 1.2
million households living in public housing

34

units in the United States, managed by some
3,300 local housing agencies.152
• HUD also provides funding to housing
agencies to administer the housing choice
voucher program, more commonly known as
Section 8, which provides subsidies to lowincome families to enable them to rent from
private landlords. The voucher and certificate
programs assist more than 1.4 million
households in the United States.153 There
are 16,000 Section 8 certificates available to
families whose lack of adequate housing is a
primary cause of the separation, or imminent
separation, of children from their families.154
• Local housing agencies may exercise
significant discretion in determining
admission and eviction policies. However,
federal law imposes restrictions on admission
for those with criminal records or certain
criminal histories; these restrictions may
affect the children and families of people who
are or have been incarcerated.155

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Promising Practices
The best programs for ensuring a stable and
safe home environment for children of an
incarcerated parent are those that provide
supportive housing tailored to caregivers
and individuals who have been incarcerated,
set aside housing vouchers for use by
individuals who have been incarcerated, and
consider applicants with criminal records
individually.
• The Salt Lake County (Utah) Housing
Authority has partnered with the county
government to place people released from
the jail directly into housing and provide
case management to them once they are
situated. The housing authority locates
appropriate units and serves as a liaison
with landlords, as well as assists participants
with applications for federal housing
assistance.156
• The Burlington (Vermont) Housing
Authority’s (BHA) housing specialists, who
are Department of Corrections contract
employees, work with incarcerated individuals
to help find appropriate housing before

release. Many individuals are able to join
families in public housing or Section 8 rental
properties. If that option is unavailable,
the housing specialists will work with local
landlords to try to secure market-rate housing.
BHA has also been involved in creating two
new transitional housing programs, including
the Northern Lights program for women and
a second Dismas House for men and women,
and continues to work on new partnerships
and housing opportunities.
• The Housing Authority of Portland (Oregon)
considers applications to its subsidized
housing by people with criminal records
individually, based on guidelines that rate the
seriousness of particular crimes. Applicants
may appeal denials, and are invited to bring
evidence of rehabilitation and an advocate,
such as a parole officer, to testify on their
behalf at the hearing. When housing
assistance is awarded, staff members help
program participants connect to resources
that help them find and stay stable in their
housing.157

Recommendations
1. Develop more pilot programs around housing, especially supportive housing, for those
reentering communities from prisons and jails with minor children.
2. Document best practices among housing authorities in providing flexibility in requirements
and services to children of incarcerated parents.

State and Federal Benefits and Income Support

35

Medicaid and SCHIP
Both Medicaid and the State Children’s Health
Insurance Program (SCHIP) provide funds to
states to provide health care for low-income
individuals and families. Whereas Medicaid
targets children in families with incomes
below the poverty level, SCHIP provides health
insurance to children whose families earn too
much money to be eligible for Medicaid but not
enough money to purchase private insurance.158
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services at the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services oversee both programs, but
each state sets its own guidelines regarding
eligibility and services. In 2007, 27.6 percent of
minor children received their health insurance
through Medicaid.159 Medicaid provided
coverage for 62.5 percent of children below the
poverty line and 41.3 percent of children with
family incomes between 100 percent and 199
percent of the federal poverty level.160 However,
20.4 percent of children below the poverty line
remain uninsured, and 16.3 percent of children
with family incomes between 100 percent and
199 percent of the federal poverty level were
uninsured.161
Because a child’s eligibility for Medicaid and
SCHIP is based on the child’s status, not the
parent’s, it is one of the federal programs that is

most readily available to children of incarcerated
parents, including children in foster care.
However, there are barriers that likely
reduce the enrollment of children of
incarcerated parents in these programs. In
some states, kinship caregivers who are not
legal guardians may face special challenges
when they attempt to register children for
Medicaid or SCHIP. For instance, some states
require kinship caregivers to obtain legal
custody or guardianship to obtain Medicaid or
SCHIP for children under their care, whereas
others require proof of blood relationship or
full-time caregiver status.162
In addition to these barriers, a 2001
Children’s Defense Fund survey found
that some caregivers believed they had to
meet requirements that state law does not
impose. For instance, caregivers may be given
incorrect eligibility information, asked for
unnecessary or burdensome documentation,
or discouraged from applying for Medicaid
or SCHIP altogether because they are not the
child’s parents or legal guardians. Some of this
misinformation may be the result of lack of
training or inconsistent policies among state
program personnel.163

Recommendations
1. Streamline the process for kinship caregivers to apply for SCHIP and Medicaid for children
in their care.
2. Provide training for state and county staff around eligibility criteria for children in kinship
care and other custodial situations to receive health benefits. Training should include
information about the special needs of children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers.
3. Include information about program eligibility for incarcerated parents and how to navigate
the application process to initiate benefits at the time of release in training for corrections
staff.

36

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

Conclusion

Although children of incarcerated parents
face substantial hardships and significant risk
factors, much progress has and can be made
to improve their well-being through policy
changes and better coordination of services
across agencies and systems. Improving
the outcomes for these children requires
comprehensive approaches that involve not
only the children of incarcerated parents,
but their current caregivers—whether a
parent, grandparent, other relative, or foster
care parents or facilities. It also requires the
commitment and cooperation of the many
systems that provide services for, or come in
contact with, incarcerated parents and their
children.
The 73 recommendations contained in
Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action
Plan for Federal Policymakers provide a broad
spectrum of consensus-based policy options to
improve the outcomes for these children by
• addressing the risk factors of children of
incarcerated parents through comprehensive
programs that take into account various
individual needs and different forms of care,
whether residing with a parent or kinship
caregiver, or in a foster care placement;

• increasing systems coordination to better
deliver the services needed by children of
incarcerated parents and their caregivers;
• improving policies, practices and programs in
criminal justice settings to minimize trauma
and ill-effects on children, both during the
arrest of a parent and through visitation in
prisons and jails;
• focusing on the distinct needs of caregivers
for children of incarcerated parents;
• encouraging measures that facilitate
permanence for children of incarcerated
parents;
• providing treatment and parenting services to
incarcerated parents, particularly if contact is
likely after release or while incarcerated;
• developing integrated approaches that help
incarcerated individuals meet their child
support obligations and facilitate the receipt
of federal and state benefits and supports by
their children.
It is hoped that this publication, in the
hands of policymakers and key constituencies,
will help facilitate actions that will make
a difference in the lives of children of
incarcerated parents.

Conclusion

37

References

1. Lauren E. Glaze and Laura M. Maruschak, Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children, U.S. Department
of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2008),
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pptmc.pdf.
2. Christopher J. Mumola, “1996 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, 1997 Survey of Inmates in State and
Federal Correctional Facilities, 2001 Annual Survey of Jails, and 2001 National Prisoners Statistics Program”
(presented at the National Center for Children and Families, Washington, DC, October 31, 2002).
3. Ashton D. Trice and JoAnne Brewster, “The Effects of Maternal Incarceration on Adolescent Children,”
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology 19 (2004): 27–35.
4. Susan D. Phillips and James P. Gleeson, “What We Know Now that We Didn’t Know Then about the Criminal
Justice System’s Involvement in Families with whom Child Welfare Agencies Have Contact,” Children, Families,
and the Criminal Justice System (Research Brief, Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago, July 2007); Joseph
Murray and David P. Farrington. “Effects of Parental Imprisonment on Children.” Crime and Justice:
A Review of Research 37 (2008): 133–206.
5. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children.
6. Ibid; Marc Mauer, Ashley Nellis, and Sarah Schirmir, “Incarcerated Parents and Their Children: Trends 1991–
2007,” The Sentencing Project, 2009, http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/publications/inc_
incarceratedparents.pdf; Nancy La Vigne, Elizabeth Davies, and Diana Brazzell, Broken Bonds: Understanding
and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Parents (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 2008), http://
www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=411616. See also Ross D. Parke and K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Effects of Parental
Incarceration on Young Children (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).
7. La Vigne et al., Broken Bonds.
8. Ibid.
9. Susan D. Phillips, B. J. Burns, and H. R. Wagner, “Parental Arrest and Children in Child Welfare Services
Agencies,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, no. 2 (2004): 174–86; Susan D. Phillips et al., “Parental
Incarceration among Youth Receiving Mental Health Services,” Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11 no. 4
(2002): 385–99; Susan D. Phillips, Jane E. Costello, and Adrian Angold, “Differences among Children Whose
Mothers Have a History of Arrest,” Women and Criminal Justice, 17, no. 2/3 (2007): 45–63.
10. Phillips and Gleeson, “What We Know Now that We Didn’t Know Then about the Criminal Justice System’s
Involvement in Families with whom Child Welfare Agencies Have Contact.”
11. Phillips et al., “Differences among Children Whose Mothers Have a History of Arrest.”
12. Susan D. Phillips, Alaattin Erkanli, Gordon P. Keeler, Jane E. Costello, Adrian Angold, Denise Johnston,
Joseph Murray, and David P. Farrington, “Disentangling the Risks: Parent Criminal Justice Involvement and
Children’s Exposure to Family Risks,” Criminology and Public Policy, no. 5 (2006): 677–702.
13. Susan D. Phillips and A. J. Dettlaff, “More than Parents in Prison: The Broader Overlap Between the
Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Systems,” Journal of Public Child Welfare, no. 3 (2009): 3–22.
14. Ibid.
15. Phillips and Gleeson, “What We Know Now that We Didn’t Know Then about the Criminal Justice System’s
Involvement in Families with whom Child Welfare Agencies Have Contact.”
16. Although these studies do not isolate other factors that may affect outcomes for children, such as
community conditions, they provide useful demographic information and recommendations to improve
services and outcomes for children of incarcerated parents.

References

39

17. California General Assembly, Assembly Bill 2316: An Act Relating to Children of Incarcerated Women, 2000,
http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframeset2text.htm.
18. Charlene Wear Simmons, Children of Incarcerated Parents (Sacramento: California Research Bureau, 2000),
http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/00/notes/v7n2.pdf.
19. Pima Prevention Partnership, Arizona Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights Project: Report and
Recommendations (Tucson: Pima Prevention Partnership, 2007).
20. Washington State Legislature, Substitute House Bill 1426: An Act Relating to Children of Incarcerated Parents,
2005, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2005-06/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/
1426-S.PL.pdf.
21. Oversight Committee, Washington State Legislature, “Final Report of the Oversight Committee: Children
of Incarcerated Parents,” 2006, http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ea/govrel/Leg0706/IncarPar0606.pdf.
22. Washington State Legislature, House Bill 1422: An Act Addressing Children and Families of Incarcerated Parents,
2007, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2007-08/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/
1422-S2.PL.pdf.
23. La Vigne et al., Broken Bonds.
24. Christopher J. Mumola, “1996 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, 1997 Survey of Inmates in State and
Federal Correctional Facilities, 2001 Annual Survey of Jails, and 2001 National Prisoners Statistics Program”
(presented at the National Center for Children and Families, Washington, DC, October 31, 2002).
25. Cynthia B. Seymour, “Children with Parents in Prison: Child Welfare Policy, Program, and Practice Issues,”
Child Welfare, 77, no. 5 (1998): 460–93.
26. Child Welfare League of America, “State Agency Survey on Children with Incarcerated Parents”
(Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1998).
27. All information sharing must, of course, comply with state and federal statutes on the confidentiality of
juvenile, medical, mental health, and substance use records, such as the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA); concerns about HIPAA are often erroneously cited as reasons why information
cannot be shared. Individuals working to improve outcomes for children of incarcerated parents should work
with all relevant staff to clarify these issues.
28. Seymour, “Children with Parents in Prison.”
29. Julie Kowitz Margolies and Tamar Kraft-Stolar. When “Free” Means Losing Your Mother: The Collision of Child
Welfare and the Incarceration of Women in New York State (New York: Women in Prison Project, Correctional
Association of New York, 2006).
30. Washington State Legislature, Substitute House Bill 1426.
31. Oversight Committee, Final Report.
32. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project, Report to the Oregon Legislature on Senate Bill 133 (Portland, 2002),
http://egov.oregon.gov/DOC/PUBAFF/docs/pdf/legreport_bill133.pdf.
33. Simmons, Children of Incarcerated Parents.
34. California Research Bureau, “Children of Incarcerated Parents: California Research Bureau Highlights
State and Local Policy Changes Needed to Ensure the Safety and Well-being of These Children,” CSL Connection
42 (2006): 9–10.
35. Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanency, and Well-being for
Children in Foster Care (Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trust, 2004), http://pewfostercare.org/research/
docs/FinalReport.pdf.
36. Susan D. Phillips, Programming for Children of Female Offenders (Washington, DC: 4th National Headstart
Research Conference, 1998), cited in Children of Incarcerated Parents Project, Report to the Oregon Legislature on
Senate Bill 133 (Portland, 2002).
37. Marcus Nieto, In Danger of Falling Through the Cracks: Children of Arrested Parents (Sacramento: California
Research Bureau, 2002), http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/02/09/02-009.pdf.
38. Ibid, p. 11.
39. Barbara E. Smith and Sharon G. Elstein, Children on Hold: Improving the Response to Children Whose Parents Are
Arrested and Incarcerated (Washington, DC: ABA Center on Children and the Law, 1994).

40

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

40. Nell Bernstein, All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated (New York: The New Press, 2005).
41. Donna Pence and Charles Wilson, The Role of Law Enforcement in the Response to Child Abuse and
Neglect User Manual Series (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1992),
http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/law/lawc.cfm.
42. Governor Bill Richardson, Executive Order No. 2006–022: Establishing Blue Ribbon Commission on the Welfare of
Children and Jailed and Incarcerated Parents (State of New Mexico: Office of the Governor, 2006).
43. Ginny Puddefoot and Lisa K. Foster, Keeping Children Safe When Their Parents Are Arrested: Local Approaches That
Work. (Sacramento: California Research Bureau, 2007), http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/07/07-006.pdf.
44. Children of Incarcerated Parents Project, Report to the Oregon Legislature on Senate Bill 133 (Portland, 2002).
45. POST Guidelines for Child Safety, When a Custodial Parent or Guardian Is Arrested, California Commission on
Peace Officer Standards and Training, 2008, http://www.post.ca.gov/Publications/pdf/child_safety.pdf.
46. Puddefoot and Foster, Keeping Children Safe When Their Parents Are Arrested: Local Approaches That Work.
47. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
48. Ibid.
49. Laura M. Maruschak, Medical Problems of Prisoners (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).
50. Lawrence A. Greenfeld and Tracy L. Snell, Women Offenders (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics,
1999).
51. Howard N. Snyder and Melissa Sickmund, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (Pittsburgh:
National Center for Juvenile Justice, 2006), p. 233.
52. Margolies and Kraft-Stolar, When “Free” Means Losing Your Mother. See also La Vigne et al., Broken Bonds.
53. La Vigne et al., Broken Bonds.
54. Don Adams and Joel Fischer, “The Effects of Prison Residents’ Community Contacts on Recidivism Rates,”
Corrective and Social Psychiatry 22 (1976); Creasie Finney Hairston, “Prisoners and Families: Parenting Issues
During Incarceration.” Paper presented at From Prison to Home: The Effects of Incarceration and Reentry on Children,
Families and Communities (2002); Shirley R. Klein, Geannina S. Bartholomew, and Jeff Hibbert, “Inmate Family
Functioning,” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 46 (2002): 95–111.
55. Steve Christian, Children of Incarcerated Parents (Washington, DC: National Conference of State Legislatures,
2009), http://www.ncsl.org/documents/cyf/childrenofincarceratedparents.pdf.
56. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
57. Christopher J. Mumola, Incarcerated Parents and their Children (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000), http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/iptc.pdf.
58. Creasie Finney Hairston, “Children with Parents in Prison: Child Welfare Matters,” in Center for Advanced
Studies in Child Welfare, CW360: Children of Incarcerated Parents (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008).
59. Creasie Finney Hairston, “The Forgotten Parent: Understanding the Forces that Influence Incarcerated
Fathers’ Relationships with Their Children,” Child Welfare 77, no. 5 (1998): 617–39.
60. La Vigne et al., Broken Bonds.
61. Ibid.
62. Phillips et al., “Differences among Children.”
63. Howard Husock, Starting Amachi: The Elements and Operation of a Volunteer-Based Social Program (Cambridge,
MA: Kennedy School of Government, 2003).
64. Angel Tree, What is Angel Tree? December 22, 2008, http://www.angeltree.org.
65. Marilyn Moses, Keeping Incarcerated Mothers and Their Daughters Together: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. U.S.
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1995),
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/girlsct.pdf.
66. Creasie Finney Hairston, Focus on Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Overview of the Research Literature
(Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2007), http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.
aspx?pubguid={F48C4DF8-BBD9-4915-85D7-53EAFC941189}.

References

41

67. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, “Official Opening of Ohio’s First Prison Nursery,”
2001, http://www.drc.ohio.gov/public/press/press96.htm.
68. Cheryl Hanna-Truscott, Her Hand Rocks the Cradle: A Photodocumentary Project about the Residential Parenting
Program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, http://www.residentialparenting.com/.
69. Tina Mawhorr and Kelly Ward, Evaluation of the Achieving Baby Care Success Nursery Program (Columbus:
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 2006), http://www.drc.state.oh.us/web/reports/
NurseryProgram.pdf.
70. Chandra King Villanueva, Sarah B. From, and Georgia Lerner, Mothers, Infants, and Imprisonment: A National
Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based Alternatives (New York: Women’s Prison Association, 2009).
71. Marion County, Oregon, “Family Systems Investment Consortium,” 2006, http://www.co.marion.or.us/
CFC/aboutus/committees/FSIC/.
72. Villanueva et al., Mothers, Infants, and Imprisonment: A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based
Alternatives.
73. Foreverfamily, http://www.foreverfam.org.
74. Hairston, Focus on Children of Incarcerated Parents.
75. Elizabeth G. Dunn and J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., Children of Incarcerated Parents and Enhanced Visitation Programs:
Impacts of the Living Interactive Family Education (LIFE) Program, Report prepared for the Family and Community
Resource Program of University Outreach and Extension (Columbia, MO: Family and Community Resource
Program of University of Missouri-Columbia Outreach and Extension, 2002). At the time of publication, a
30-month, qualitative evaluation of the program was in process under the direction of Dr. Joyce Arditti of
Virginia Tech University.
76. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
77. Kinship caregivers are any relatives other than a child’s mother or father who provide care for children
and include both relatives caring for children following a formal determination by the court and the child
protective service agency, and relatives providing care without the involvement of child welfare.
78. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
79. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families,
Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System
(AFCARS) Preliminary FY 2006 Estimates as of January 2008, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_
research/afcars/tar/report14.htm.
80. Jennifer Ehrle Macomber, Rob Geen, and Regan Main, Kinship Foster Care: Custody, Hardships, and Services
(Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 2003), http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310893.
81. Jennifer Ehrle and Rob Geen, “Kin and Non-kin Foster Care: Findings from a National Survey,” Children and
Youth Services Review 24, no. 1–2 (2002): 15–35.
82. Jennifer Ehrle, Rob Geen, and Rebecca Clark,” Children Cared for by Relatives: Who Are They and How Are
They Faring?” New Federalism: National Survey of America’s Families, B-28 (Washington, D C: The Urban Institute,
2001), http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/anf_b28.pdf.
83. Casey Family Programs, Kinship Care (Seattle: Casey Family Programs, 2008), http://www.casey.org/
Resources/Publications/WhitePapers/WhitePaper_KinshipCare.htm.
84. Creasie Finney Hairston, Kinship Care When Parents are Incarcerated: What We Know, What We Can Do
(Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2009), http://www.aecf.org/~/media/Pubs/Topics/Child%20
Welfare%20Permanence/Foster%20Care/KinshipCareWhenParentsAreIncarceratedWhatWeKn/10147801_
Kinship_Paper06a%203.pdf.
85. Tiffany Conway and Rutledge Hutson, Is Kinship Care Good for Kids? (Washington, DC: Center for Law and
Social Policy, 2007), http://www.clasp.org/publications/is_kinship_care_good.pdf.
86. Mark Testa, “Kinship Care and Permanency,” Journal of Social Service Research 28, no.1 (2001): 25–43. See
also Patricia Chamberlain, Joe M. Price, John B. Reid, John Landsverk, Philip A. Fisher, and Mike Stoolmiller,
“Who Disrupts from Placement in Foster and Kinship Care?” Child Abuse and Neglect, 30, no. 4 (2006): 409–24.

42

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

87. Mimi V. Chapman, Ariana Wall, and Richard P. Barth, “Children’s Voices: The Perceptions of Children in
Foster Care,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74, no. 3 (2004), 293–304; M. I. Benedict, S. Zuravin, and R.
Y. S. Stallings, “Adult Functioning of Children versus Nonrelative Family Foster Homes,” Child Welfare, 75, no. 5
(1996): 529–49.
88. David Rubin, Kevin J. Downes, Amanda L. R. O’Reilly, Robin Mekonnen, Xianqun Liu, and Russell Localio,
“Impact of Kinship Care on Behavioral Well-being for Children in Out-of-Home Care,” Archives of Pediatrics and
Adolescent Medicine 162, no. 6 (2008): 550–56.
89. Aron Shlonsky, Daniel Webster, and Barbara Needell, “The Ties that Bind: A Cross-sectional Analysis of
Siblings in Foster Care,” Journal of Social Service Research 29, no. 3 (2003): 27–52. See also Fred Wulczyn and
Emily Zimmerman, “Sibling Placements in Longitudinal Perspective,” Children and Youth Services Review 27,
no. 7 (2005): 741–63.
90. Casey Family Programs, Kinship Care.
91. Generations United, Louisiana Subsidized Guardianship (Washington, DC: Generations United, 2005). United
States Congress, The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77) 1987. The McKinney-Vento Act
treats children living with relatives who are not their parents as homeless and provides school supplies and
uniforms for the children and food for the families.
92. Casey Family Programs, Kinship Care.
93. ABA Center on Children and the Law, Educational Consent and School Enrollment Laws: Why They Matter
(Washington, DC: ABA Center on Children and the Law, 2006), http://www.abanet.org/child/summarymemo3.pdf. The thirty states are CA, CT, DE, HI, IN, IA, LA, MD, MI, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NM, NC, ND, OH,
OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI, and WY, http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=16371.
94. Center for Law and Social Policy, Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act Summary,
http://www.clasp.org/admin/site/publications/files/FINAL-FCSAIAAct1-pager.pdf.
95. Patricia E. Allard and Lynn D. Lu, Rebuilding Families, Reclaiming Lives (New York: Brennan Center for Justice,
2006).
96. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
97. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Adoption
and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Preliminary FY 2006 Estimates as of January 2008,
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report14.htm.
98. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). The AFCARS Report: Preliminary FY 2006 Estimates
as of January 2008 (14), www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report14.htm (accessed
October 30, 2008).
99. Steve Christian and Lisa Eikman, A Place to Call Home: Adoption and Guardianship for Children in Foster Care
(Denver, CO: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2000).
100. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Case Planning
for Families Involved With Child Welfare Agencies, www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/
caseplanning.cfm. Also see The Federal Foster Care Program, Title IV-E guidelines, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/
programs/cb/programs_fund/state_tribal/fostercare.htm.
101. Marilyn C. Moses, “Correlating Incarcerated Mothers, Foster Care, and Mother-Child Reunification,”
Corrections Today 68, no. 6 (2006): 98–100, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/216276.pdf.
102. National Institute of Justice, “Intersections of Prisons and Child Welfare: Findings From One State Using
Administrative Data. October 2006–December 2006.”
103. Moses, “Correlating Incarcerated Mothers.”
104. Phillips et al., “Disentangling the Risks.”
105. Moses, “Correlating Incarcerated Mothers.”
106. National Foster Care Coalition, “Facts about Children in Foster Care.”
107. Christian, Children of Incarcerated Parents.
108. Arlene Lee, Philip M. Genty, and Mimi Laver, The Impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act on Children of
Incarcerated Parents (Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 2005).

References

43

109. Glaze and Maruschak, “Parents in Prison.” Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison
has more than doubled, up 131 percent.
110. Christian, Children of Incarcerated Parents.
111. N.Y. Social Services Law, Art. 6, Tit. 1 § 384-b.
112. Cal. Welfare and Institutions Code §361.5.
113. Colo. Rev. Stat. §19-3-604.
114. Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 210, §3; Mo. Rev. Stat. § 211.447; Neb. Rev. Stat. §43-292.02; N.H. Rev. Stat.
Ann. §170-C:5; N.M. Stat. Ann. §32A-4-28; Okla. Stat. Tit. 10, §7006-1.1.
115. Christian, Children of Incarcerated Parents.
116. Ann Cammett, Making Work Pay: Promoting Employment and Better Child-Support Outcomes for Low-Income and
Incarcerated Parents (Newark: New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, 2005), http://www.njisj.org/reports/
makingworkpay.pdf.
117. Ibid.
118. Esther Griswold and Jessica Pearson, “Twelve Reasons for Collaboration between Departments of
Correction and Child-Support Enforcement Agencies,” Corrections Today 65, no. 3 (2003): 87.
119. Jessica Pearson, Building Debt While Doing Time: Child Support and Incarceration (Denver: Center for Policy
Research, 2004), http://www.abanet.org/jd/publications/jjournal/2004winter/pearson.pdf.
120. Center for Policy Research, Working with Incarcerated and Released Parents: Lessons from OCSE Grants and State
Programs, Center for Policy Research for the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Administration for Children
and Families, Department of Health and Human Services (Denver: Center for Policy Research, 2006),
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/pubs/2006/guides/working_with_incarcerated_resource_guide.pdf.
121. Elise Richer, Abbey Frank, Mark Greenberg, Steve Savner, and Vicki Turetsky, Boom Times a Bust: Declining
Employment among Less-educated Young Men (Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy, 2003).
122. Rachel McLean and Michael D. Thompson, Repaying Debts (New York: Council of State Governments
Justice Center, 2007).
123. North Carolina General Statute, sec. 50–13.10(d)
124. Minnesota Department of Human Services guidelines and policies, http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/
idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=
id_050524#isthere#.
125. National Offender Workforce Development Partnership, Quarterly Newsletter, Summer 2009,
http://nicic.org/Downloads/General/the%20Partnership.Summer09.pdf.
126. Center for Policy Research, Working with Incarcerated and Released Parents: Lessons from OCSE Grants and State
Programs.
127. McLean and Thompson, Repaying Debts.
128. Center for Policy Research, Working with Incarcerated and Released Parents: Lessons from OCSE Grants and State
Programs.
129. Ore. Rev. Stat. 416.425(9).
130. Many of these recommendations are reflected in the Council of State Governments Justice Center report,
Repaying Debts by McLean and Thompson. For additional suggestions for policymakers on this topic, go to
http://reentrypolicy.org/finobs_pubs_tools.
131. Jim Rausch and Tom Rawlings, “Integrating Problem-Solving Court Practices Into the Child Support
Docket,” the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2008, http://nasje.org/news/
newsletter0803/R1cNCJFCJIntegratingProblemSolving.pdf.
132. This chapter focuses primarily on programs that have a direct benefit to children of incarcerated parents.
Though there are many instances where other benefit programs, such as Social Security Insurance, would
indirectly benefit children through a parent or caregiver’s participation, that discussion is beyond the
purview of this section.
133. Hairston, Focus on Children of Incarcerated Parents.

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Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

134. Fragile Families Research Brief 42. Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing in Fragile Families (Princeton
University: Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, 2008).
135. Ibid.
136. Ibid.
137. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
138. Fragile Families, Parental Incarceration and Child Wellbeing in Fragile Families.
139. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has developed the “Federal Benefits Chart,”
http://tools.reentrypolicy.org/benefits_chart—an online tool designed to provide case managers and
others working with individuals in jail or prison with a broad introduction to various federal benefit
programs for which individuals may be eligible on release to the community.
140. Council of State Governments, The Report of the Reentry Policy Council (New York: Council of State
Governments, 2005).
141. On October 1, 2008, the Food Stamp Program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP).
142. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2004), http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/child-only04.
143. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (21 U.S.C. § 862a).
144. Council of State Governments, 2005. The Report of the Reentry Policy Council. (New York: Council of State
Governments, 2005).
145. Amy Hirsch, Sharon Dietrich, Rue Landau, Peter Schneider, Irv Ackelsberg, Judith Bernstein-Baker, and
Joseph Hohenstein, Every Door Closed: Barriers Facing Parents with Criminal Records (Washington, DC: Center for
Law and Social Policy, 2002), http://www.clasp.org/admin/site/publications_archive/files/0092.pdf.
146. Council of State Governments, The Report of the Reentry Policy Council.
147. Chris Koyanagi, A Better Life—A Safer Community: Helping Inmates Access Federal Benefits (Washington, DC:
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2002).
148. Ibid.
149. Ibid.
150. Glaze and Maruschak, Parents in Prison.
151. Ibid.
152. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Public Housing,” http://www.hud.gov/offices/
pih/programs/ph/.
153. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8),”
http://portal.hud.gov/portal/page/portal/HUD/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8.
154. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Family Unification Program,” http://www.hud.
gov/offices/pih/programs/hcv/family.cfm.
155. Legal Action Center, Safe at Home: A Reference Guide for Public Housing Officials on the Federal Housing Laws
Regarding Admission and Eviction Standards for People with Criminal Records, 2004, http://lac.org/doc_library/lac/
publications/Safe@Home.pdf.
156. Reentry Policy Council, “Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and Prisoner Reentry” (New York: Council
of State Governments Justice Center, 2006), http://www.reentrypolicy.org/publications/public_housing_
authorities_prisoner_reentry;file.
157. Ibid.
158. Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. “Key Facts.” SCHIP provides coverage to “targeted
low-income children,” which include those who reside in a family with income below 200 percent of the
Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or whose family has an income 50 percent higher than the state’s Medicaid
eligibility threshold. Some states have expanded SCHIP eligibility beyond the 200 percent FPL limit, and
others are covering entire families and not just children.

References

45

159. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Health Insurance Coverage in America,” 2007, http://facts.kff.
org/chartbooks/Health%20Insurance%20Coverage%20in%20America,%202007.pdf. See also Kaiser
Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, “Key Facts: Health Coverage of Children: The Role of Medicaid and
SCHIP,” 2008, http://www.kff.org/uninsured/upload/7698_02.pdf.
160. Ibid.
161. Ibid.
162. Mary K. Bissell and Mary Lee Allen, Healthy Ties: Ensuring Health Coverage for Children Raised by Grandparents
and Other Relatives (Washington, D.C.: Children’s Defense Fund, 2001), http://www.childrensdefense.org/
child-research-data-publications/data/healthy-ties-guide-to-health-insurance.pdf.
163. Ibid.

46

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Action Plan for Federal Policymakers

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