When individuals are incarcerated, it generates a cascading set of challenges throughout a family. For children, it can trigger lifelong problems, and studies have documented that parental imprisonment is a risk factor for child antisocial behavior, offending, mental health problems, drug abuse, school failure, and unemployment. In addition, there is clearly an impact to the children’s caregivers, which could be a spouse, grandparent, relatives, even friends.
A recent Council of State Governments’ report, “Tips for Engaging Caregivers of Children with Incarcerated Parents in Reentry Programming,” offers a number of positive ideas for helping to make the bridge from incarceration to community life successful for all involved. The report suggests that integrating all parties involved, from the person incarcerated to children to caregivers, can lead to improved mental health, reduce prison misconduct and influence recidivism in a positive way after release.
Tips for program providers
- Engage caregivers as subject matter experts, from program development and implementation to ongoing case planning. They can provide valuable insight to shape programs.
- Acknowledge caregivers’ experiences and concerns, as many suggest they are overlooked, and ask for their input to build trust.
- Offer practical resources and tangible support to caregivers. These resources can range from the practical (i.e., diapers) to in-person support groups for caregivers facing similar hurdles.
- Partner with community-based organizations. Each GEO Reentry Service program is tasked with building and maintaining a collection of local organizations that can provide supportive services to program participants and their families. In addition, GEO Reentry Connect was developed to provide helpful tips, tools, and links to valuable resources. Search the Resource page for community-based organizations throughout the nation.
GEO Reentry Family Services
To help prepare families for reentry, in many of its in-custody programs GEO Reentry has implemented a Family Services program. Two curricula are used: The Family Reunification Program and InsideOut Dad. The Family Reunification Program is an eight-session course offered to offenders and their families to rebuild positive family connections, with discussions involving co-dependency, boundaries, forgiveness, communication, and financial management. InsideOut Dad connects inmate fathers to their families, helping to improve behavior while still incarcerated and to break the cycle of recidivism by developing pro-fathering attitudes, knowledge, and skills, along with strategies to prepare fathers for release.
GEO Reentry’s Family Services program is embedded within a family treatment model that understands and embraces family involvement as important to resident success. The program aims to assist in the overall improvement of the residents’ vocational and educational productivity, family and peer-group relationships, emotional and overall health, social life, and community involvement.
GEO Reentry Services provides in-custody, non-residential and residential reentry programs for community corrections agencies. Visit GEOReentry.com for more information.