Abstract: Churning through the System: Implications of Fathers's Reentry and Recidivism after Prison for Children's Well-Being (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Churning through the System: Implications of Fathers's Reentry and Recidivism after Prison for Children's Well-Being

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Independence BR B, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Luke Muentner, MSW, Doctorial Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background and Purpose: Parental incarceration is often a continuation of a challenging family situation marked by poverty, unstable housing, trauma, and abuse. These challenges make it difficult for parents to raise their children effectively and increase the likelihood of poor outcomes for their children. Children whose parents are additionally battling problematic opioid use have an even higher risk for long term problems. The current study used survey data from 48 community service providers to better understand the service needs of parents with opioid use disorder who are reentering their communities after incarceration.

Methods: Forty-eight social service providers familiar with the service needs of corrections-involved parents with a history of problematic opioid use (CIO parents) were recruited from primarily Oregon using snowball sampling, email queries, and social media. An online Qualtrics survey was used to gather input from the respondents. Participants provided basic demographic information (e.g., education level, race/ethnicity, occupation, and location) and then were asked several open-ended questions regarding what they viewed as needs or gaps in current services for CIO parents. Following this, participants were invited to review a set of potential topics and activities for a parenting intervention program and indicate which they felt would be beneficial for CIO parents. Participants were able to suggest topics and activities that were not listed on the survey. Finally, participants were given the option to elaborate on any of the topics or activities they desired in an open-ended short answer format. Descriptive analyses were run on all quantitative questions. The open-ended short answer questions were coded manually – grouping similar themes into categories and calculating respective frequencies. Responses were collaboratively discussed among research team members to ensure reliability of the codes.

Results: Community service providers recommended implementing intervention programs that cover critical information related to basic needs, supportive community resources, drug treatment programs, and parenting to help individuals thrive in the community and meet their children’s needs. The most frequently identified service needs for CIO parents included housing (39.58%), mentors/peer counselors (12.50%), mental health support (10.41%), and group therapy/support programs (8.33%). Key topics the service providers felt needed to be addressed in parenting programs included problem-solving techniques (54.17%), understanding parental addiction’s impact on children (45.83%), and strategies to connect with and meet children’s needs (41.67%).

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings provide valuable insight for the development of a supportive strategy to meet the needs of CIO parents and their families. The community service providers highlighted the importance of addressing parenting with an eye towards each individual’s reentry needs and context. It is clear that successful reentry will look different across different families’ circumstances. Ideally, a reentry program would begin supporting parents while they are still incarcerated, providing key information, treatment, and transitional planning to ensure that each parent and their family has the tools, knowledge and a strong comprehensive support system in place before the parent leaves prison. Such support would then continue as the parents returned and reintegrated into their communities and families.