Session: Smart Decarceration: The Impact of Parents' Correctional Involvement on Children (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

36 Smart Decarceration: The Impact of Parents' Correctional Involvement on Children

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 2:45 PM-3:45 PM
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Symposium Organizer:
Jean Kjellstrand, PhD, University of Oregon
Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Background: The dramatic growth in the number of children and families affected by the parental arrest and incarceration, along with findings of harm and trauma experienced by these families, has broadened interest in the collateral consequences of parents' correctional involvement on children and families. This symposium features four studies by members of the Smart Decarceration Grand Challenge Initiative and collaborators. Collectively, the studies examine how parents' involvement in the corrections system impacts child outcomes, both short and long term. This symposium is especially relevant at a time when our country is increasingly interested in reducing the incarcerated population, diminishing the negative impacts of arrest and incarceration, preventing intergenerational hardship, while also preventing crime and preserving public safety.

Methods: The studies featured in this symposium use a variety of research designs to examine the impact of parents' correctional involvement on children--from arrest, during incarceration, and upon reentry. The first study uses quantitative methods to analyze cross-sectional data from 86 jailed parent-caregiver-child triads to investigate young children's development and emotional reactions to witnessing their jailed parent's arrest. The second uses cross-sectional data from 370 incarcerated parents within state prisons to examine outcomes for children as well as parental perceptions of their child's future outlook. The third study uses thematic analysis to analyze data gathered from 38 semi-structured interviews of inmates and their families to understand children's well-being through the perspective of fathers reentering the community from prison, and co-parenting mothers or relatives. Finally, the fourth study uses growth mixture modeling with longitudinal data from 655 incarcerated parent-caregiver-child triads to examine the overall effects of parental incarceration on developmental trajectories of internalizing problems for youth while controlling for key individual and family influences.

Results: The studies point to the detrimental impact parental arrest and incarceration can have on children. Children may experience a range of issues including developmental, behavioral and emotional problems. However, strong parent-child relationships, healthy family dynamics, positive parenting, and fewer traumatic events appear to reduce the impact of a parent's arrest and incarceration on child outcomes. When questioned, many incarcerated parents stressed their children's resilience despite adversity and expressed hope about their child's future. For many incarcerated parents, reentry presented an opportunity for them to mend broken ties, recommit to emotional and relational bonds, and provide additional financial support to families.

Implications: As a first step, practitioners who work with children who have experienced parental arrest and incarceration need to be aware of the multiple challenges that can come into play for these families as well as the corresponding strengths that different children and families possess. Specifically, the studies point to: 1) the critical need for family-focused referrals and interventions which support the children of corrections-involved parents while 2) simultaneously implementing practices and policies which minimize harm, hardship, and trauma experienced by children during a parent's arrest or incarceration. Additional high quality research is needed to guide the development, refinement, and evaluation of such practices, programs, and policies.t 11758 modified by on 5-8-2020-->

* noted as presenting author
Does Witnessing a Parent's Arrest Relate to Emotional or Developmental Concerns in Young Children with Jailed Parents
Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Luke Muentner, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kaitlyn Pritzl, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Laurel Davis, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Rebecca Shlafer, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Children with Parents Incarcerated in State Prison: Concurrent Positive and Negative Outcomes and Parental Perceptions of Future Success
J. Mark Eddy, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Charles Martinez, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Dana Foney, Health Resources and Services Administration
Reunited at Reentry: Children's Well-Being after Fathers Are Released from Prison
Luke Muentner, MSW, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Pajarita Charles, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Role of Parental Incarceration in Predicting Trajectories of Child Internalizing Problems
Jean Kjellstrand, PhD, University of Oregon; Gary Yu, MPH, New York University; Miriam Clark, University of Oregon; Arriell Jackson, University of Oregon; J. Mark Eddy, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
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