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New Federal Grant Expands Support for Children of Incarcerated Parents in Baltimore

A new program designed to support Baltimore City minor children of parents who are currently or recently incarcerated will launch this spring thanks to a multiagency partnership and US Department of Justice grant.

B’More Reconnects will provide parenting skill development for parents to address the needs of their children; training for correctional officers to respond to the needs of parents, children, and families during visitation; examine visitation policies at City correctional facilities; and support community-based services to meet the needs of parents and the whole family upon reentry.

B’More Reconnects is being established through Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success (MOCFS) and partner organizations. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will identify and facilitate training for caregivers and correctional officers; the Baltimore City Health Department will provide trauma-informed training for correctional officers; The Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s School of Social Work will provide project management and evaluation; PIVOT will conduct parenting intervention groups for incarcerated parents and to caregivers within the community; and Reproductive Justice Inside will provide subject matter expertise on visitation policy and its impact on children.

“We must provide recently incarcerated parents with the adequate support they need to maintain familial relationships that are fundamental in preventing recidivism and preserving the full development of our young people,” says Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “I want to thank the US Department of Justice, The Wright Family Foundation, The Richman Family Foundation, and The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund for their partnership on this effort.” 

B’more Reconnects will provide proven, research-based parenting education to approximately 400 parents in detention centers as well as upon reentry with a focus on navigating and strengthening the parent/child relationship.

The program will train correctional officers on trauma-informed practices, child development, and parenting concepts in order to meet the needs of children and incarcerated parents. As a part of this work with correctional officers, B’more Reconnects will examine visitation policies and practices to allow for meaningful parent-child connections during visitation while maintaining safe practices. The project also strives to increase positive family outcomes by investing in the coordination of services for incarcerated parents upon reentry including educational and vocational support, health care, housing, and additional parenting support. By investing in parenting support, improving the quality of visitation within detention centers, and supporting parents upon reentry, B’More Reconnects serves to improve the health and wellbeing of minor children of incarcerated parents within Baltimore City.

“It is a worthwhile venture to partner with organizations of quality and experience in working with individuals who are incarcerated and soon to be released. We expect that this work will help incarcerated parents transition back to society while strengthening relationships with their children,” says Andrey Bundley, PhD, director of Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement.

Within the City of Baltimore, an estimated 20,000 children have a parent who is incarcerated or is on parole/probation. High rates of incarceration among Baltimore’s most impoverished communities of color highlight the City’s struggle with institutional and structural poverty and racism. B’More Reconnects strives to address the needs of these children and their parents through pilot projects focused on male and female parents on prerelease status in several facilities within the Maryland Department of Corrections System. This project builds on preliminary efforts in the City to address the needs of families faced with incarceration through working with arresting officers to reduce trauma to children upon arrest and with school staff to understand the trauma faced by students of incarcerated parents.

Nationwide more than 1.7 million American children are separated from their parents while they are incarcerated. Structural poverty and racism contribute to high rates of incarceration; children with incarcerated parents are three times more likely to live below the poverty line with more than one in four black children in American experiencing parental incarceration.

The impact on and trauma of parental incarceration for children is significant and is identified as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. ACEs lead to chronic stress and can disrupt normal child development with trauma-related disorders, anxiety, depression, substance use, academic challenges, antisocial behavior, and juvenile justice involvement. Research has shown that the negative impact of parental incarceration on children can be alleviated by investing in parenting support and skill building for incarcerated parents, as well as providing community supports for parents around housing and employment upon reentry.

“The Institute for Innovation and Implementation is thrilled to be a part of this important work providing project management and ongoing evaluation of the project activities to assess and ensure positive outcomes for Baltimore City youth, parents, and their families,”says Kate Sweeney, MSW, B’More Reconnects project director and codirector of Parent, Infant, and Early Childhood, The Institute.

MOCFS received a three-year grant through the 2020 Second Chance Act Addressing the Needs of Incarcerated Parents and their Minor Children funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Second Chance Act grants provide funding for states and local governments to develop programs within detention or correctional facilities that support the minor children of incarcerated parents and foster positive family engagement.

These federal funds were made more impactful for Baltimore through matching dollars from three Baltimore-based foundations: The Wright Family Foundation, The Richman Family Foundation, and The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund. In undertaking this work, MOCFS and the Baltimore City Health Department are collaborating with The Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s School of Social Work, PIVOT, Reproductive Justice Inside.

Source: University of Maryland School of Social Work