Lead Organization: The Osborne Association
Key Partners: New York City Department of Probation, Warren County Probation Department, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Mental Health Association of New York State, New York City Administration for Children’s Services, New York State Office of Children and Family Services, New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Northside Center for Child Development, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, The Bronx Defenders, the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York and Hour Children.
Project Location: New York State
Contact: Tanya Krupat, Program Director, New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, The Osborne Association, firstname.lastname@example.org
An alarming number of children in the United States grow up with a parent who is incarcerated at some point during their childhood. While this experience is diverse and varied, it is often traumatic and almost always loaded with stigma, leading many children to hide this fact from friends and others. Parental incarceration is now recognized as an adverse childhood experience which can place children at risk for poor overall mental and physical health, due in part to resulting isolation and a lack of familial connectedness with their incarcerated parents.
The Osborne Association, as the coordinator of the New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, is advocating for the use of Family Impact Statements during sentencing and to increase visiting opportunities for families during periods of incarceration by assigning parents to prisons closer to their children and expanding opportunities for supplemental parent/child contact through the use of televisiting technology. These changes bolster family support for children and lessen the traumatic effects of having an incarcerated parent. Family Impact Statements – recently renamed Family Responsibility Statements based on feedback received from various criminal justice partners – are written to convey to a judge how the children and family of a person convicted of a crime will be affected by various sentencing decisions. Consideration for the family responsibilities of the individual including their parental role and responsibilities may lead to a sentence that prevents or reduces the separation period while ensuring the parent takes responsibility for their actions.
Increasing children’s access to their incarcerated parents is also priority. Distance is the number one barrier to children visiting their incarcerated parents, which most children want to do and benefit from. Contact with a parent who is incarcerated is a protective factor for most children, yet proximity to children is not considered in prison assignment decisions in New York. Maintaining contact is in the interest of a child’s positive health outcomes as well as the parent’s successful reentry (research demonstrates maintaining family ties reduces recidivism). A parent’s reentry success is also critical for children’s long-term health and wellbeing, as parental re-incarceration further disrupts family stability and is devastating for children.
This statewide project, includes the active efforts of a group of medical and mental health practitioners, criminal justice experts and child development specialists. Together, the coalition works for policy and practice reform, as well as to raise awareness about the impact of parental incarceration on children among the health and mental health community, building capacity to provide compassionate, responsive services for this group of children.
Why this work is important:
- An alarming number of children in the United States grow up with a parent who is incarcerated at some point during their childhood – 1 in 28 children have an incarcerated parent according to a 2010 study from the Pew Research Center’s Economic Mobility Project .
- There is no single story of a child whose parent is incarcerated; each story is unique and experiences are varied. What is shared among these children is the heavy burden of societal stigma and judgment, and lack the support and empathy that children experiencing other types of loss receive.
- Parental incarceration is as an adverse childhood experience which can place children at risk for poor mental and physical health.
- Contact with an incarcerated parent is an important protective factor for most children and receiving visits while incarcerated is associated with lower recidivism rates.
- Incarcerating fewer parents would prevent this often devastating separation for children. In many cases, alternatives to incarceration would keep families unified while providing cost-effective rehabilitative services to parents; thereby,promoting public safety and improving children’s outcomes
Relevant Information from the 2014 County Health Rankings:
- Twenty-four percent of adults in the state of New York do not have adequate social and emotional support.
- Thirty-five percent of children in the state of New York live in single parent households.