Helping Children & Families When a Parent is Incarcerated

When one or both parents are incarcerated, children and caregivers face unique challenges, from making sure the child’s basic needs and emotional needs are met, to maintaining appropriate connections between the child and his or her parent(s). This situation can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate for adults, let alone for children. The Family Services Advocate program, led by Compass Mark in partnership with Ambassadors for Hope, is making it a little easier.

In 2015 and 2016, Compass Mark had the opportunity to participate in important research conducted by Millersville University on assisting families in which one or both parents are incarcerated. Outcomes from the first two years of the program were compiled and show positive results both in measureable data and personal experience.

With support from Compass Mark’s Family Services Advocate (Jennifer Strasenburgh), children in the study showed significant improvement in areas of need, such as access to: their incarcerated parent, therapy, stable housing, healthcare, food and other items. In addition, families reported positive personal experiences from the impact of the program.

For example, in one case, a new mother was able to have important, regular bonding time with her newborn son through visits in prison, while the baby was cared for temporarily by a family through Bethany Christian Services. The mother was deeply affected by this opportunity to spend time with her baby and grateful that he did not have to go into foster care.

In another case, a grandmother who had temporary guardianship of her granddaughter during her daughter’s incarceration received critical assistance and support from the Family Services Advocate and support team. In addition to helping her to attain health insurance and therapy for her granddaughter—who had found her mother near death from an overdose—the Advocate located a sponsor to cover the cost of a two-week summer camp that the child had been anticipating. Now, the child’s mother is back at home and working on her recovery.

In all, the research indicated a need for the program and attested to its effectiveness for children and families dealing with a parent’s incarceration. To read Millersville University’s entire report on the Family Services Advocate program, click here.