Families seeking to maintain contact during a fathers incarceration encounter bureaucratic and practical challenges. First, they must comply with all correctional facility requirements governing child visitation. For the incarcerated parent, this typically includes requesting that the child and caregiver be added to approved visitor logs as well as avoiding personal disciplinary violations. For the visiting co-parent, this includes submitting all visitor documentation required for admittance and passing background checks (sometimes impossible for partners or co-parents with a criminal history). Second, families must make logistical arrangements for the visit, including planning a trip during approved visiting hours, arranging transportation, securing child care for any nonvisiting children, and obtaining food and other supplies for travel and time at the correctional facility. To assist with these challenges, MFS-IP grantees have implemented several innovative strategies. For example, MFS-IPfunded case managers working in the New Jersey Department of Corrections supported parents in navigating the hurdles that might otherwise prevent them from bringing children for visits with their fathers. Case managers worked individually with each family, contacting co-parents or caregivers to help them make arrangements for visitation and to assist them in obtaining and submitting the documentation required by facilities in order to bring a child for visitation. Other grantees, such as the Council on Crime and Justice (Minnesota) and the RIDGE Project (Ohio), supported visitation by defraying the cost of prison visits for children and their caregivers.
|The RIDGE Project offered visitation support to its participants as a way of rewarding attendance at parenting and relationship education classes and encouraging family communication and contact. The program reimbursed co-parents who participated in family strengthening services for transportation and food expenses associated with prison visitation, up to a maximum of $50 per co-parent.|