A NEW YEAR, NEW RESOLVE
At our first meeting of the new year, SFCIPPers discussed their struggles and successes of 2010, and set goals, individual and collective, for 2011. As has become the norm of late, the Zellerbach Family Foundation conference room was abuzz with energy and an overflow crowd of more than 30 in attendance. I’d like to start the new year by sharing Bridgett Ortega’s summation of the sentiment in the room:
I’m encouraged to see that we have something for every Right on the Bill of Rights.
SFCIPP needs to be cognizant of the fact that we cannot be afraid to grow, and we have to make sure that what we do sticks. We need to have the policies, procedures and will to keep moving forward.
Those are words to remember as, unafraid or not, we keep on growing and moving forward at an evermore-rapid clip as more and more of you lend your time, energy and insight to the work of making the Bill of Rights an on-the-ground reality for the children of San Francisco (and, increasingly, beyond).
FAMILY IMPACT STATEMENT GOES VIRAL!
As many of you know, it was a great achievement for SFCIPP when former Chief of Adult Probation Services Patrick Boyd adopted our Family Impact Statement (FIS) into the department’s Pre-Sentence Investigation Report – a concrete step towards Right #3 (I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent), among most challenging of the eight rights to implement, and a longtime goal. We thank Chief Boyd and wish him well in the next phase of his life.
We also welcome his successor, Chief Wendy Still, who has not only embraced the Family Impact Statement and the larger goals of SFCIPP but is poised to take its implementation to a new level. By integrating the Family Impact Statement into the COMPAS automated case management system, she has ensured that at least eight counties in a coalition she heads will access it, and made it accessible to hundreds more across the state. Her next planned step is to train her staff to carry out a new model of family-focused probation services, which will use the Family Impact Statement, as developed by SFCIPP and adopted by Adult Probation, as the centerpiece of its case management services. This approach, she says, which also includes collaboration with San Francisco’s Child Welfare Department, “will help parents maintain positive connections with their children and remain in the community.” The Family Impact Statement is being added to COMPAS by San Francisco, she adds, but since her version of the system is being used in eight other counties in California, with more planning on the horizon, this project will have an impact across the state.
This statewide potential got a boost from the endorsement of Sen. Carole Liu, who has introduced legislation specifically recommending county-level adoption of the Family Impact Statement.
OUR REACH CONTINUES TO GROW
Ever since we published the BOR, we have continued to be astonished by the national impact of a document we originally intended mainly as a set of guiding principles for our own local work. But every week or so (at least) I seem to get another indication of its reach – an order for 800 copies, or a call from a BOR coalition I’ve never heard of.
As an experiment, I recently entered “children of incarcerated parents bill of rights” into the Google search engine. The phrase returned nearly 60,000 pages. Thinking it one of those Google freak accidents, I paged through randomly all the way to the end and found reference to our BOR at least as far as the 44,000s, where Jeff Kelly Lowenstein of the Chicago Reporter wrote about how it had influenced work on behalf of the children taking place in Chicago and across the country.
Meanwhile, SFCIPP is now one step closer our constituency with the installation of a designated phone line and our own public phone number: (510) 524-1169.
With the phone number has come both another means of gauging our reach, as people call from all over the county call to tell us how they are using the Bill of Rights, and a new set of challenges, as callers from all over ask for advice on everything under the sun – a student in Oklahoma seeks guidance in starting a new coalition based on the BOR to work with and for children of incarcerated parents; a screenplay writer wants help making her novel on the subject realistic; a hospital social worker is looking for support for client with two small kids whose husband is about to be sentenced to several years. Most challenging are the calls from individuals asking for help in dealing with heartbreaking personal situations – help that SFCIPP is not, at the moment, truly equipped to offer except on an ad hoc basis.
Resources Working Group FORMS
To meet this growing challenge (these requests have long come in by mail and email as well), SFCIPP is forming a resources working group. Our first order of business will be to create a clear mission statement vis a vis what we can and cannot provide to individuals (and groups) in terms of resources and referrals (which we can then post prominently on the website right by the phone number, as well as summarize on our voicemail), and also to look at how we can best organize the tremendous collective knowledge base that we have at hand to make those resources we do know of most easily accessible to those who need them. The first meeting will be held in February.
Meanwhile, thanks to those of you who have already shared resources, including (but not limited to) the following:
From Charlene Simmons, Tara Regan, and Yali Lincroft:
Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration
The “stark reality” of rising incarceration rates, the report’s authors note, “has sparked new research on the familial and societal costs of incarceration, increasing the attention given by policymakers to the children of incarcerated parents and stirring organizing efforts for change at the local and national levels. Advocates and activists across the country have even been urging implementation of the Children of Incarcerated Parents – Bill of Rights.
A footnote goes into more detail about our work: San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents, Children of Incarcerated Parents – Bill of Rights (2005), available at http://www.sfcipp.org.” In 2005, SFCIPP launched the Rights to Realities Initiative, with the long-term goal of ensuring that every child in San Francisco whose parent is arrested and/or incarcerated is guaranteed” eight rights addressed under the bill.)
We’ve known for years – and continually been surprised by -- the reach of the BOR nationally and even internationally. But what really struck me about this particular reference was the throwaway phrase "THE Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights" -- as if anyone reading the report would of course know what the authors were referring to! In other words, we've entered the lexicon!
Also from Yali:
From Rights to Reality: A Plan for Parent Advocacy and Family-Centered Child Welfare Reform
In this special issue, Rise Magazine offers numerous ways to unite parents and parent advocacy around a common set of goals. Modeled after our BOR, the document identifies 15 rights for parents affected by the child welfare system. Download
From Katie Kramer:
To add to your “just when you thought it could get worse file,” this bit of local news from Akron Ohio:
Dr. Boyce: Jailing A Mother For Sending Kids To Wrong School District?
An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Read.
And one more from Yali:
A news report, based on research from the longitudinal Fragile Families study.
Future of Children – Princeton/Brookings/ Fragile Families, Volume 20 Number 2 Fall 2010
Since the mid-1970s the U.S. imprisonment rate has increased roughly fivefold. As Christopher Wildeman and Bruce Western explain, the effects of this sea change in the imprisonment rate —commonly called mass imprisonment or the prison boom—have been concentrated among those most likely to form fragile families: poor and minority men with little schooling.
Imprisonment diminishes the earnings of adult men, compromises their health, reduces familial resources, and contributes to family breakup. It also adds to the deficits of poor children, thus ensuring that the effects of imprisonment on inequality are transferred intergenerationally. Perversely, incarceration has its most corrosive effects on families whose fathers were involved in neither domestic violence nor violent crime before being imprisoned. Because having a parent go to prison is now so common for poor, minority children and so negatively affects them, the authors argue that mass imprisonment may increase future racial and class inequality—and may even lead to more crime in the long term, thereby undoing any benefits of the prison boom.
U.S. crime policy has thus, in the name of public safety, produced more vulnerable families and reduced the life chances of their children. Read.
YALI LINCROFT LEADS SFCIPP CONTINGENT TO SEATTLE CONVENING
Just back from Seattle, Yali kindly sent in the following report:
“On Jan 24-25, 2011, the Research Symposium on Issues Facing Children and Families of the Incarcerated was held at the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. SFCIPP members Gretchen Newby, Carol Burton, and Yali Lincroft attended the event and shared their work in California with their colleagues representing Washington, Oregon, Montana, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The SFCIPP team were also able to visit the women's Residential Parenting Program and on-site Early Head Start program located at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (commonly known as "Purdy"). Yali Lincroft facilitated the general session with University of Illinois at Chicago professor Susan Phillips titled "Facts and Fiction: A Dialogue about Common Children of Incarcerated Parents Research Myths" and also co-presented a workshop with Immigration Attorney Ann Benson from the Washington Defenders Association titled "When An Immigrant Parents Gets Arrested: The Intersection of Incarceration, Deportation, and Family Separation.”
If you missed Yali in Seattle, you can catch her here on this archived episode of The Scales of Justice – BlogTalk Radio Show where she joins a conversation on the increased incarceration of women in America. Listen.
Those of you with an academic bent (and credentials to match) might want to take a look at the (voluminous) application form for the W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship Program. Download.
The NIJ says the Fellowship “provides talented researchers from all academic disciplines with a terminal degree, with an opportunity, early in their career, prior to the award of tenure, to elevate independently generated research and ideas to the level of national discussion. Due to the nature of this Fellowship, NIJ strongly encourages applicants with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Residency at NIJ is not a fellowship program requirement...
The W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship Program seeks to advance knowledge regarding the confluence of crime, justice, and culture in various societal contexts. The Fellowship places particular emphasis on crime, violence, and administration of justice in diverse cultural contexts within the United States.”
The deadline is March 22.
Across the Bay
Speaking of expansion, an official welcome to the East Bay Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (EBCIPP) to the “CIP” family. Inspired and led by SFCIPP member Barbara Ivins PhD with and co-founded by Ivins and Cynthia Rinker SSA/CWS, EBCIPP has, with the fundraising assistance of the aforementioned Yali Lincroft, garnered its first grant, allowing the burgeoning group to hire SFCIPP's Bridgett Ortega to coordinate a mix of SFCIPP-veterans and brand new Easy Bay allies to make waves across the bay. Congratulations to all involved .
The One Family Initiative at the San Francisco County Jail
Well, it’s hard to keep up with these days, and, as we looked back a few years during our New Years meeting, pretty hard to believe how far we have come. A full report is beyond the scope of this update, but I’ll try to hit some highlights:
• It’s official now – the Sheriff has signed off on the policy originally developed in the One Family working group to institutionalize Right #1.
• As the work steadily expands (into the men’s jail at San Bruno, the Women’s Reentry Center on the outside, and much more), so does outside interest in just how San Francisco is pulling of something that, by all accounts, “couldn’t be done” prior to our – just doing it. We’ve had visits (to talk about the work) from the U.S. Deputy Drug Czar, and site visits at the jail (no small feat for Kelli Finley, Ruth Morgan and their SFSD colleagues to pull off) from a delegation form the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (which has also begun sending a regular representative, Kathie Moon, to SFCIPP meetings and has dsasked about other ways we can advise them about CIP issues) and another from the California State Legislature, which sent aides to several legislators interested in learning about our model with and eye to statewide reforms (e.g., Sen. Liu’s abovementioned bill re the Family Impact Statement). I joined the CDCR visit and, as we stood in the back of the men’s parenting class, there was not a dry eye in the group as the men talked about how they were there not because they were required to be but because cellmates or meal companions had told them it was essential, and how, in a short period, they had gained both a new appreciation for the mothers of their children and an entirely transformed understanding of what it meant, and took, to be a father to their children. One man in the class was not yet a father, but had signed up so he’d know what he was doing when the time came.
• Every so often – quite frequently, in fact – I get updates from Kelli Finley in the form of announcements of yet another class of mothers or fathers graduating from Parenting Inside/Out. For a sense of the work so far, here is the latest (thanks, Kelli):
“One Family, a program of Community Works, in partnership with 5 Keys Charter School, is proud to announce our next Parenting Inside Out (PIO) Graduation at County Jail #2 in San Francisco on Thursday, January 20th, 2011. The graduation will be held in Charter School Classroom #1 at 9:30 a.m.
Since the inception of One Family we have had over 378 graduates of PIO from County Jail #2 and County Jail #5. Each parent must complete 80% of their homework (which is given almost daily) and attend 80% of the classes in order to graduate.
Through 5 Keys Charter School parents take 2 hour and 20 minute classes, 5 days a week for 5 weeks which means they have the opportunity to take 60 hours of parenting while in custody.
At the end of each semester, we hold a graduation to celebrate the work that parents have done throughout the semester, present the graduates with certificates, and encourage the parents who have not completed the course to continue the next time it is offered. Graduation also provides a space for parents to share what they have learned and gained from the class and for jail staff to hear about the impact of PIO on the students.
Thanks to all who have supported Parenting Inside Out and a special thanks to Michelle Petrou, Jessica Caple and the One Family team. Thank you!”
• These folks just don’t stop – the latest news is a new Parenting Inside/Out class on the outside, open to all mothers who need the support. From the fresh-off-the-presses flyer:
Join us for a brand new class:
Parenting Inside Out
Parenting Inside Out is an 8-week certified, parent education program specifically designed for men and women who have been incarcerated, but the class is open to any interested mother. Join us in a supportive environment where all are welcome to learn, share and grow.
Topics covered include:
• Effective communication skills • Problem solving • Child development • Brain development
• Child guidance • Parenting through challenges
The class meets Mondays and Wednesdays 1-3 pm, at the SFSD Women’s Reentry Center 930 Bryant Street, San Francisco
Sign up in person at the WRC or call 415-734-3150