of Arrested and Incarcerated Parents:
Research Bureau highlights state and local policy changes needed to ensure the
safety and well-being of these children
estimated 835,000 children in
have a parent in jail, prison, or on parole or probation at any one time.
Many more experience the arrest of a parent.
In March 2000, the California State Library’s California Research
Bureau (CRB) published Children of Incarcerated Parents, by Charlene
Simmons. This report, prepared at
the request of then-Assembly member Kerry Mazzoni, focused the state policy
spotlight on this largely invisible group of children who experience tremendous
difficulty and upheaval when their parents are arrested and incarcerated, and
appear in many state-funded systems such as foster care and the juvenile justice
initial report triggered a five-year-long research and education project in the
CRB, resulting in a total of five reports and a number of policy seminars.
One of these reports, In Danger of Falling Through the Cracks:
Children of Arrested Parents by Marcus Nieto, summarized the results of a
survey sent to all
local police departments, county sheriff’s departments, and social welfare
departments. Of the many important
findings, perhaps the most significant was that two-thirds of the responding law
enforcement departments reported they had no written policy outlining their
officers’ responsibilities for minor children at the time of a parent’s
April 18, 2006, the California Research Bureau held a one-day summit to
highlight the challenges and opportunities in keeping children safe at the time
of a parent’s arrest. Over 150
participants from more than 20 counties and state agencies convened at the Hyatt
Regency in downtown Sacramento to learn what is known, both in California and
elsewhere, about children’s safety at the time of arrest, including how
various jurisdictions are responding to the need for a coordinated and
consistent response between law enforcement and child welfare services.
Presenters from several counties,
Oregon, and the Yale
discussed their approaches to preventing trauma and providing support for
children when their parents are arrested. The
CRB will soon be publishing a policy brief based on these summit presentations.
were welcomed to the Summit
by Assembly member Pedro Nava, who authored legislation last year giving
parents who are arrested the right to make two phone calls from jail to arrange
for their children’s care. Assembly
member Nava has introduced legislation this year (AB 1942) encouraging local
jurisdictions to develop law enforcement protocols and requiring the Peace
Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to develop guidelines and
training for keeping children safe when a parent is arrested.
This legislation is based on prior research and policy roundtables
convened by the CRB on children of arrested and incarcerated parents.
The one-day summit provided additional input and feedback to inform state
policy development on this issue.
the summit and prior work by the CRB on children of arrested and incarcerated
parents were made possible by the generous support of the Zellerbach Family
more information on this issue, please contact Charlene Simmons, assistant
director, at 651-9759, or Ginny Puddefoot, senior research and policy
specialist, at 653-7653.