How teachers can help children of incarcerated parents

Cover of COIP toolkit

BOISE, September 13, 2012  -- With the start of a new school year, the Idaho Department of Correction is publicizing an online document that can help teachers and caregivers better serve children whose parents are in jail or prison.

The document is called Parents Behind Bars: Children of Incarcerated Family Members.  It describes the special challenges these children face and offers tips on how adults can help them cope and succeed.

“These children often come from living situations that were not positive,” says Janet Guerin, IDOC’s Director of Program Services and Women's Programs. “So when others of us come into contact with the children, we want to do things that put them on the right path, that help them make different decisions than their parents.”

The Parents Behind Bars toolkit provides insight into what children think and feel when their mother or father is arrested, and it offers answers to questions they often pose at every stage of the criminal justice process. The toolkit also lists books and community organizations to which teachers and caregivers can turn for help.

Children of incarcerated parents often end up incarcerated themselves, and there is a growing movement across the country to break what’s been dubbed the “cradle-to-prison pipeline.” In Idaho, that effort is being led by the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission, a 25-member panel appointed by the governor to provide policy-level direction and to promote efficient and effective use of resources for matters related to the state’s criminal system.

In addition to distributing the Parents Behind Bars toolkit, the Children of Incarcerated Parents subcommittee of the ICJC is helping coordinate a pilot program that will reach out to approximately 100 children of incarcerated parents at two elementary schools, one in Boise and another in Caldwell. The students will attend a program in which they will learn life skills and how to make good decisions.

The COIP subcommittee is also conducting a survey to determine how many Idaho children have a parent in prison. A 2009 survey found the ratio was 1.18 children per offender.

The COIP subcommittee is comprised of representatives from IDOC, Eastern Seals Goodwill, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, the Idaho Department of Education, Catholic Charities of Idaho, Idaho Youth Ranch, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho Family Advocates and the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.


Story published: 09/13/2012
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