Local Programs Keep Incarcerated Parents Connected to Kids

Data suggests parent-child connection during incarceration reduces recidivism, helps break the cycle of incarceration in families, and improves resident behavior.

A recent Route-Fifty article discussed the importance of keeping incarcerated parents connected with their children, especially where recidivism reduction is concerned. Keeping those bonds intact also helps the parent and child transition during the various stages of re-entry. The Family Connections Center (FCC) in two New Hampshire detention facilities is working to do just that.

Started in 1998, the program began as a partnership between the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the University of New Hampshire Family Studies Department. An initial study revealed that not only were recidivism rates decreased, but resident behavior was more manageable. For the children of incarcerated parents, who have a higher risk for developmental issues and their own incarceration, they also experience the long-term benefits of the program.

Not only does the FCC program organize visits with minimal supervision, the participating residents also must complete an 18-hour parenting class, and a 10-hour healthy relationships class. Ongoing support groups and additional parenting resources are rolled into the program as well. One inmate from the article reflected on the value of the program when she is struggling with parenting challenges from incarceration:

“When I’m overwhelmed, [our counselor] is the person I go to when things are wrong,” she said. “Support group is the highlight of my week.”

Returning citizens programs highlight the importance particularly of transitional housing for families, to help rebuild those bonds at the onset. Greater ease and access to sharing time releases some of the burden that comes with parents being in separate housing from their children as they get reintegrated into society. The barriers can lead to a recently released parent trying to decide between being there for their child in a moment of hardship or making curfew on time.

Local facilities in Maryland are also spearheading initiatives to meet similar goals of maintaining the parent-child connection. As covered previously on the blog, Charles County Detention Center runs a library program that sends children recordings of their parents reading stories to them. Dorchester County and a number of others provide individual iPads to inmates for use during the day and sometimes overnight. These devices allow parents to communicate directly with their children via phone calls, text messages, and emails, which is especially important for young children around bedtime. This also gives a child the comfort of knowing they can reach a parent directly when they want to. Many local detentions centers also have pre-trial supervision programs, that help keep parents at home with children. These services facilitate regular check-ins, drug tests, counseling, and connection to resources for individuals awaiting trial, while keeping them in their homes with their families and children.

Read the full Route-Fifty article.