Brief Offers Policies for Families Separated by Foster Care and Incarceration

Posted May 9, 2018, By Cynthia Guy

Mom and son connect.

A new policy brief from Princeton University and the Brookings Institution examines two Casey Foundation priorities – children in foster care and children of incarcerated parents – and calls for a rigorous system of targeting, testing and tracking to better understand what harms kids most and to identify strategies that help.

The brief, "Helping Children With Parents in Prison and Children in Foster Care," introduces the latest volume of the Princeton-Brookings journal The Future of Children, which promotes effective, evidence-based policies and programs for children. The current volume, titled “Reducing Justice System Inequality,” focuses on how the justice system exacerbates inequality for children and youth across a range of institutions, and proposes solutions to mitigate these effects. The journal includes articles on juvenile probation, diversion and jails and school-based policing, as well as the topics highlighted in the policy brief.

The Foundation’s 2016 KIDS COUNT policy report, A Shared Sentence, showed that 5.1 million children in the United States have had a parent incarcerated, driving increased poverty, homelessness, hunger and trauma. The report called for practices that consider the well-being of children in sentencing decisions, remove barriers between kids and parents during incarceration and prevent re-incarceration by connecting parents to opportunity after their release. The Princeton-Brookings report adds that data can test whether policy changes increase visitation by children and improve their outcomes.

The new brief also focuses on the more than 400,000 children in foster care, calling for the need to reduce the number of children in state care and to improve the system, including recruiting and supporting high-quality foster parents through campaigns such as CHAMPS – Children Need Amazing Parents. The report calls for better tracking of children entering the system to have real-time information on their status and testing of intervention programs.