Activities of the Service Network for Children of Inmates:
Since 2007 the Network has served children, ages birth to 18, whose parents are incarcerated in prison or jail. The Network has:
• Developed systematic processes to receive referrals from the community, local law enforcement, Miami-Dade County jail and state prisons
• Proactively located children to ensure they are safe and with a responsible adult caregiver
• Established six community-based care coordination centers in faith-based organizations to respond to crises and provide basic services
• Provided services to reduce risks for anti-social behaviors, facilitate family stabilization, and improve developmental progress
• Created opportunities to allow for stronger bonds and attachment between children and incarcerated parents through prison and jail visits and video-visitations, and
• Raised community knowledge of the consequences of incarceration on children.
The Network provides these children and their families with wrap-around support that will lead to success in school and society. A number of strategies and tactics are employed to ensure that these children are safe and served by nurturing families and communities. Identifying and locating these children is the first step in assisting them. Second, we assist in the child and family in obtaining basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) and provide them with appropriate referrals to medical services, mental health care, educational opportunities, legal assistance, and other services. Third, we strengthen the bonds between the incarcerated parent and child through communication (letter writing), visits to prison or jail, and with video visits at the Care Coordination Centers. Fourth, we raise community awareness and serve as advocates for these children of inmates. We carefully measure our performance and provide the Children’s Trust with robust results.
Since 2007 the Network has received 2,250 referrals from incarcerated parents and other sources; located, and contacted 1,625 of those referrals; and provided care coordination services to 919 children and their families. To strengthen the familial bond between the child and his/her incarcerated parent, the Network has taken over 500 children to visit seven Florida Department of Corrections facilities and the Miami-Dade County Jail since 2008. To raise community awareness, the Network established a website in December 2008 and in 18 months the site has received over 3,500 unique hits and over 4,500 visits.
The Network has garnered the attention of the news media as evidenced by the Miami Herald’s three articles about children of inmates, CBS4 News’ three television stories, and in January 2010 National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” program showcased the work of the Network. More importantly, the Network has gained a foothold in the state, as the Florida Department of Corrections has included the Children of Inmates in its re-entry plans with seven correctional institutions.
We provide a continuum of direct and unique support services. These services include:
• Hosting free-flowing expression support groups for small groups of children to help children understand and process their feelings and come-to-terms with the realities of parental incarceration. During these sessions, letter-writing or drawing are used to support the child’s efforts to communicate with their incarcerated parents and to express their feelings about the situations in which they find themselves.
• Separately hosting support groups to allow the caregivers build a sense of community and share how they are resolving problems specific to their situation, such as obtaining birth certificates for children left in their care, managing school routines, etc.
• Coordinating special quarterly trips to selected correctional facilities to overcome barriers to visitation and improve caregiver bonding, where appropriate. The trips are used both to provide support to existing clients and to engage new clients.
• Employing video-visitation sessions using state-of-the-art conferencing technologies to maintain more frequent contact and/ or to provide for less costly, invasive and frightening contact/ bonding between the child and incarcerated parent.