Up to 38% of imprisoned parents have lost temporary or permanent custody of their children. The largest proportions of all terminations of parental rights involve incarcerated parents, and this number is growing. Approximately 15% of prisoner's children are in the foster care of strangers.
Longitudinal studies have documented the negative effects of family separations and multiple out-of-home placements for children. These are two common, critical factors in the experience of children of offenders for the following reasons: 1) this population has low levels of income and education, and less access to assistance and resources in working with the child dependency system; 2) the criminal adjudication and incarceration processes conflict with dependency procedures; 3) family reunification legislation and guidelines, created to insure speedy return of children removed by the court to their parents, discriminate against prisoners; and 4) incarceration and its aftermath prevent parents from meeting reunification requirements.
The main objective of the CHICAS Project is preservation of the families of parents involved in the criminal justice system, by addressing these inadequacies in the system. CHICAS works with jailed and imprisoned parents and their families to avoid emergency out of home placements, long term placements out of the family and termination of parental rights. Services include assisting prisoners and their families with:
Emergency placement of children following parental arrest;
Power of attorney for caregivers of prisoners' children;
Arranging placement of prisoners' children within the family;
Maintaining family ties, including parent/child communication and visitation;
Fighting termination of parental rights;
Achievement of family reunification requirements; and
Maintaining the reunified family following the parents release.
A wide variety of resources are available to CHICAS clients, including:
Expert witness testimony;
Parent education through the Center's Prison Parents & Ex Offender Parent Education Projects;
Therapeutic services for children as part of the Center's Therapeutic Intervention Projects;
Support groups and training for the caregivers of prisoners' children.
The center also offers a bibliography of resources for incarcerated parents and many other services. This is one of the best services of its type that PLN has seen to date. All too often prison means the destruction of a prisoner's family ties, especially with her/his children. This is an important area that needs to be given more attention and support. For more information write to: The Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents, 5 & 6 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103.
Or call: (818) 397-1396.
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