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Children of Incarcerated Parents Responding to the Needs : Surveying the Landscape of Programs and Services. Ann Adalist-Estrin,M.S. Director, NRCCFI / FCN . Children of the Incarcerated. “Distorted in the telling, buried in the untelling”

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Children of Incarcerated ParentsResponding to the Needs : Surveying the Landscape of Programs and Services

Ann Adalist-Estrin,M.S.

Director, NRCCFI / FCN

children of the incarcerated
Children of the Incarcerated

“Distorted in the telling,

buried in the untelling”

Randall Robinson on the legacy of slavery

children of the incarcerated a broader context
Children of the Incarcerated: A Broader Context
  • Brain Development Research
  • Trauma Research
  • Temperament Research
  • Attachment Theory Debates
trauma
Trauma
  • An incident is traumatic if it carries a threat against life, physical well being or personal security
  • Children always experience the loss of a parent as traumatic
  • Trauma diverts a child’s energies from developmental tasks
  • Children can be re traumatized by situations characterized by additional threats or simple uncertainty

(Mc Allister-Groves,Child Witness to Violence Project 2002)

the impact of trauma
The Impact of Trauma

Brain Development: Key Points

  • The brain is not fully developed at birth
  • Massive brain growth occurs in the first year
  • There are major spurts of brain growth at 4,7 and 12 years of age
  • Brain development continues through adolescence into young adulthood
the impact of trauma6
The Impact of Trauma
  • Different functions ( regulation of mood, anxiety, behavior and abstract thought ) develop or mature at different times in the life of a child
  • Early experiences become biology, changing brain chemistry thus

shaping the way people learn ,think, and behave for the rest of their lives

Bruce Perry, MD, PhD. www.ChildTrauma.org

  • What gets stimulated( the good and the bad) at each age , gets hardwired.

Robert F. Anda, M.D.,M.S. Co-Principal Investigator for the ACE Study( Adverse Childhood Experiences) www.acestudy.com

the impact of trauma7
The Impact of Trauma
  • Trauma or perceived danger causes the excretion of adrenalin and cortisol in amounts that cause brain damage and death in laboratory animals.

(Perry 2004 )

  • The presence of parents or other adult attachment figures lowers the dangerous levels of cortisol

( Dozier, 2005)

  • Prolonged anxiety and excessive stress disrupts the architecture of the developing

( National Scientific Council on the Developing Brain, Harvard University 2006)

positive stress
Positive Stress
  • Moderate, short-lived physiological response
    • Increased heart rate, higher blood pressure
    • Mild elevation of stress hormone, cortisol , levels
  • Activated by:
    • Dealing with frustration, meeting new people

National Scientific Council on the Developing Brain, Harvard University 2006

tolerable stress
Tolerable Stress
  • Physiological responses large enough to disrupt brain architecture
  • Relieved by supportive relationships:
    • that facilitate coping,
    • restore heart rate and stress hormone levels
    • reduce child’s sense of being overwhelmed

Activated by:

    • Death of loved one, divorce, natural disasters

National Scientific Council on the Developing Brain, Harvard University 2006

toxic stress
Toxic Stress
  • Strong & prolonged activation of stress response systems in the absence of buffering protection of adult support
    • Recurrent abuse, neglect, severe maternal depression, substance abuse, family violence
    • Increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and mental health problems
responding to the needs framing the issues
Responding to the NeedsFraming the Issues
  • The need for data

On the themes and variations in the lives of children and families of the incarcerated. Where do they fall on the continuum of stress?

Challenge: As interest in this research grows, how can we advocate for recognizing parental incarceration as a risk factor without creating automatic labels of pathology and further stigmatizing the children and their families?

responding to the needs framing the issues13
Responding to the NeedsFraming the Issues
  • The need for an atmosphere of safety and trust for children and families of the incarcerated in programs, practices and policies.

Challenge: How can we encourage families to recognize the impact of parental incarceration on child health and development and seek appropriate support and services without demoralizing them with images of neglect and projections of criminality?

7to 10 times more likely we need to stop saying this
7to 10 times more likely?We Need to Stop Saying This
  • Children experience the stigma of having a parent in prison
  • They experience risks…poverty, racism, trauma, inadequate structural support systems
  • Often, the same life circumstances that led the parent to criminality are present for the child.
  • They are at risk for the cycle of trauma, addictions, rage, criminality.
  • They feel further stigmatized by this message
responding to the needs framing the issues15
Responding to the NeedsFraming the Issues
  • The need for public awareness campaigns

Challenge: How can we increase the interest in and support for this population without demonizing the incarcerated parents and increasing the anxiety and loyalty conflicts for the children?

advocacy that hurts
Advocacy that Hurts?
  • “Kids of Cons”
  • “ Their parents are prostitutes and drug addicts but they want to do better.”
  • “These children have no one to give them affection or guidance.”
  • “ Would you want your child to be parented by a thug?”
responding to the needs framing the issues17
Responding to the NeedsFraming the Issues
  • The need for collaboration in the field

Challenge: Now that children of the incarcerated are being focused on in many and varied settings how can we work together to combat the obstacles that interfere with effective program and policy development?

children and families of the incarcerated a developing field
Children and Families of the Incarcerated: A Developing Field
  • Decades of programs leading the way
  • Pioneer programs still guiding practice
  • Recent Federal Initiatives opening doors
  • Constantly shifting focal points:

The child: Mentoring

The incarcerated parent: Reentry and Healthy Marriage

The programs: Federal Resource Center

The caregiver: MCP Caregiver’s Choice

the past as prologue
The Past as Prologue

The Federal Resource Center for Children of incarcerated parents:

  • Looked at model programs and practices
  • Engaged stakeholders
  • Included youth and caregivers
  • Developed training materials
the past as prologue20
The Past as Prologue

Family and Corrections Network:

  • Disseminated current research, ideas and information
  • Compiled Directories of Services
  • Created training materials and provided training
  • Compiled information from the requests of stakeholders
the landscape now
The Landscape Now

The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated:

100 requests per day from

  • Programs
  • Incarcerated Parents
  • Caregivers
  • The Media
  • Students and Researchers
  • Community Organizers
nrccfi at fcn
NRCCFI at FCN
  • Training

Mentoring, Healthy Marriage Initiatives, Mental Health and Social Work Professional Development, School Districts

  • Consultation

Fatherhood Initiatives, Faith Based Initiatives, Media and Public Awareness Campaigns, Parenting Programs

  • Evaluation of Mentoring Training
nrccfi at fcn23
NRCCFI at FCN
  • Resource Development

Fact Sheet, Caregiver Materials, Update of Directory of Programs, Bill of Rights Information Dissemination

  • Speaker and Trainer Development

Including caregivers, children and adult children of the incarcerated and mentors.

bill of rights for children of the incarcerated
Bill of Rights for Children of the Incarcerated
  • Focuses on the child
  • In the context of family
  • Honoring the significance of the incarcerated parent
  • Respecting the needs of caregivers
  • Advocacy for policy change
  • Increased public awareness
  • Impacting programs and practices
what we know
What we “Know”

Children of the Incarcerated like all humans are “all at once like all others, like some others and like no others.”

Emmanuel Lartey

resources
RESOURCES

National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated at FCN

  • Directory of Programs
  • Children of incarcerated parents Library
  • Responding To Children and Families of incarcerated parents: A Community Guide by Ann Adalist-Estrin and Jim Mustin(2003)
  • Telephone Trainings, Conferences and Technical Assistance

fcnetwork.org

presenter contact information
Presenter Contact Information

To get a copy of this presentation-

E-mail me

Adalist@fcnetwork.org

focusing on the future implications for public policy
Focusing on the Future: Implications for Public Policy
  • After hearing today’s discussions and panels, what is one thing you might do differently in your work?
  • When the 2010 White House Conference on Children is convened, what points from today’s discussion would you want to be sure were included?
  • What one thing would you want a policy maker to take away from this discussion?