SUMMARY AND NEXT STEPS
Meeting attendees included Federal employees from various agencies working with children and families involved in the criminal justice system, and researchers and practitioners from across the country. One major theme of the meeting was the need for more research regarding these children and their families. Much needs to be learned regarding how they function, their strengths and weaknesses, long-term trajectories, and the best interventions to prevent future difficulties. Another theme was the need for more scientists conducting research in this area. The presenters and attendees were pleased to have a forum to review the science on children of parents in the criminal justice system.
Below are some examples of future research directions:
- Examine the effects of: 1) parental criminality, arrest, incarceration, and reentry on children; 2) parental involvement and family relationships on adult recidivism, employment, and health outcomes; 3) marriage on the individual and child outcomes; and 4) programs and policies on children and families.
- Develop evidence-based interventions concomitantly in the child welfare and criminal justice systems so the two systems will work in concert to serve the family as a unit.
- Conduct research on child functioning to answer the following questions: 1) How do children’s relationship qualities change over the course of parental incarceration? 2) How does reunification impact social, emotional, and health functioning in children? 3) What can we learn from differential outcomes for siblings? Why? 4) Do resilient young children continue to function well as they grow older? 5) What systems should be changed to continue to foster resiliency?
- Conduct research on prison nurseries in order to: 1) continue to tailor personalized intervention and follow dyads into preschool years; 2) refine evidence-based intervention resources useful to prison systems with nurseries; 3) conduct comparison studies; and 4) evaluate prevention resources in the community.
- Determine whether programs such as the Engaging Moms Program (EMP) can be adapted for mothers involved in the criminal justice system; potential opportunities for program implementation include: at the time of arrest, prior to release from jail, upon prison release, or during probation or parole.