Parenting from Prison: Innovative Programs to Support Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers. Child-Friendly Settings

04/30/2010

Staff at various grantee agencies asserted that the creation of special visitation areas facilitated easier, less strained interactions between incarcerated parents and their children. Unlike traditional prison visitation areas, child-friendly visitation centers may be furnished with toys, child-sized furniture, and playful, inviting décor. Efforts to create such centers can be hindered by facility policies and regulations: driven by security needs, correctional administrators typically restrict which areas of the facilities can accommodate visits and what kinds of activities are allowable. To build successful visitation programs, grantees worked closely with facility staff to address these security concerns and identify available space. Unlike other program components that required scheduled use of a shared space, child-friendly visitation required the identification and alteration of a dedicated space within the facility to be used solely for that purpose. For this reason, the successful start-up of a child-friendly visitation component typically required extensive facility buy-in. Parenting programs run from within the correctional system or by nonprofit agencies with very strong, long-term relationships with the correctional system were more likely to successfully create and manage such operations, including the Osborne Association (New York), Child and Family Services of New Hampshire/New Hampshire Department of Corrections, and the Shelby County Division of Corrections (Tennessee). Such extensive efforts were not always necessary, however, to take small steps toward comfortable accommodations for children. For example, the New Jersey Department of Corrections helped make it possible for co-parents to bring their children with them to facility-based parenting classes by obtaining childrens books and coloring supplies for the rooms in which courses were conducted.

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