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Greater Cleveland Children of Incarcerated Parents Strategy Release Event

3/25/2015 On March 25, 2015, Cuyahoga County partners revealed the Greater Cleveland Strategy for Children of Incarcerated Parents at an event addressing the urgent need for a coordinated, comprehensive approach to serve children from families with members in prison.

“We want to help any child who is experiencing challenges from incarceration. That includes the baby or little boy or girl who witnesses the arrest and removal of their parent, or the teen parent who becomes incarcerated,” stated Robin R. Martin, Program Director of the Family & Children First Council (FCFC), the agency that will coordinate the initiative.

Children who have an incarcerated parent may suffer a range of negative consequences, including financial hardship, behavioral issues, social stigma, and poor academic performance. Similarly, they may need a range of services and supports.

According to Jill Korbin, Director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University:
Encouragingly, she noted that the right responses and support may help mitigate potential challenges. Plus, the desire to stay connected is there: in Ohio, 94.4% of dependent children have incarcerated parents who express a great deal of desire to maintain contact with their children.

Tracee Turner shared her experience as a caregiver for children with an incarcerated parent. She noted the importance of “being present” and providing stability for youngsters cut off from an emotional and physical connection with their parent.

“This strategy is our community’s pledge to be present for these kids,” said Charmaine Pope, Coordinator for Children of Incarcerated Parents. She plans to use her insights from more than eight years cultivating government-based initiatives that promote positive youth development and improved health and human services to guide this project.

The strategy focuses on identification and screening, training, evaluation, and establishing a system of supports and a governance structure.

Pope noted that the project’s planning team identified two national curriculums that have been successful in other communities: Baby Elmo and Project WHAT.

Baby Elmo, which provides opportunities for incarcerated teen parents to maintain contact with their children, has operated at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility since 2012. As part of the new strategy, partners will learn from local program participants and others after they return to their neighborhood and families.

Project WHAT, established in California in 2006, employs young people who have had a parent in prison as training facilitators, to raise awareness and improve services and policies.

The original visionary for the local initiative was Oriana House, Inc. Currently, more than 70 members from multiple agencies are committed to the project. Fifty supporters participated in the strategy release event held at the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County.

For more Children of Incarcerated Parents resources: http://fcfc.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/news_cip_resources.aspx