Community Conference Covers Issues Surrounding Children of Incarcerated Parents

November 2, 2006

What? Community leaders gather for a conference at UO to help raise awareness about how parental justice involvement and incarceration impact children – participants will learn how to work together to better meet the needs of these children.

When? Thursday, November 9 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Reception in the Law School immediately following the conference

Where? University of Oregon – Walnut Room in the Erb Memorial Union

Contacts:

  • Katina Saint Marie, University of Oregon, 346-1482
  • Cheryl Hansen, Director of the Children’s Justice Alliance Training Institute, 503-703-8054
  • Mark Eddy, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Oregon Social Learning Center, 485-2711

Lane County community leaders will be convening at the University of Oregon on Thursday, November 9, 2006, to raise awareness of how parental incarceration impacts children and to provide strategies to communities, their justice partners and human service providers to work together to better meet the needs of these children.

The University of Oregon School of Law, in partnership with The Portia Project, which is dedicated to helping women prisoners, are co-hosting the conference. They will present a full-day workshop for Lane County community leaders entitled “And How Are the Children? A Community Approach to Prioritizing, Protecting and Parenting Children.”

The primary goal of the training is to build a base of understanding and awareness that includes information about the impact of parental criminality on child development, family dynamics and the parent-child relationship; thus resulting in a shared vision and community action plan. “Lane County needs to formulate a collaborative plan to help children from incarcerated families. These children need to feel supported to grow into happy and productive adults while learning how to cope with the stigmas that often come with having a parent in prison” says Barbara Aldave, Law professor at the University of Oregon and president of The Portia Project.

Approximately 10 million children nationwide have a parent who has been incarcerated. 2.3 million of those children in our country – or roughly one child out of every 30 – currently has a parent in state, federal prison or local jail. According to estimates from Oregon Social Learning Center researchers, on any given day in Lane County, there are approximately 3,695 children with one or both parents in jail or prison. Many of these children experience poverty, the effects of substance abuse and/or illegal activities and family instability prior to the parent’s incarceration. Once the parent is taken away the experience worsens. They must cope with the stigma of family involvement in the criminal justice system, the loss of a parent and the isolation that comes with coping with issues in silence.

The “And How are the Children?” interactive training is designed to create a training atmosphere that fosters open exchange among participants while providing an opportunity for respective disciplines to examine their own policies, procedures and practices in relation to the children of incarcerated parents. Participants will additionally acquire tools that will allow them to address the complex issues surrounding parental incarceration.

The audiences targeted for this curriculum are multidisciplinary teams consisting of criminal justice officials and community leaders, which may include but are not limited to, leaders in law enforcement, community corrections, child welfare, early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, community-based services, and the criminal justice system, as well as a number of formerly incarcerated parents, in this day of training and workshops. The presentation will also include a youth panel from the community who will help the assembled participants more fully understand the issues faced by the children of incarcerated parents.

The format and content of the conference was developed by the Children’s Justice Alliance of Portland, Oregon, for the purpose of building an infrastructure for the assistance of the children of incarcerated parents. The conference has been piloted in other Oregon counties, where it has been instrumental in increasing awareness and effecting positive change. “And How Are the Children?” will bring together a significant number of local leaders to engage in multi-disciplinary training and to establish community teams that will subsequently work together to facilitate the provision of services to children whose parents are incarcerated.

This conference follows a national conference on Nov. 6 sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on “Children of Parents in the Criminal Justice System: Children at Risk,” which will be co-chaired by local Oregon Social Learning Center research scientists and psychologists Mark Eddy and Lew Bank. The conference organizer is Dr. Eve Reider, Deputy Branch Chief of the Prevention Research Branch at NIDA. This conference will bring together researchers from around the world with federal agency officials to discuss recent research findings on the children of incarcerated parents. Eddy is the principal investigator of an ongoing study of parents incarcerated in Oregon state prisons and their families funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and Bank is the principal investigator of a study of parents on probation or parole in Oregon coastal counties and their families funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For general information about the “And How Are the Children?” training contact Katina Saint Marie at the University of Oregon at 346-1482 or e-mail Katina at katina@uoregon.edu. To learn more about The Portia Project contact Professor Barbara Aldave.