Training for programs and systems serving children with incarcerated parents and their caregivers is vital to providing age appropriate and relevant support. NRCCFI conducted or planned for several trainings throughout the fall that focused on the needs of these little ones.

Frederick, Maryland

Technical assistance was provided to a new program Reducing the Impact of Incarceration on Children and Families through Education and Coaching”.

This program was created by the Mental Health Association of Frederick County (MHA) in collaboration with Children of Incarceration Parents Partnership (COIPP) and with funding from the Governor’s Office on Children. The COIPP Program provides support for caregivers, many of whom are caring for young children.

Troy, New York

Training for over 100 Head Start staff from several agencies in the Albany area was sponsored by CEO (Commission for Economic Opportunity) in Troy.

Oakland, California

The inaugural Bay Area Summit on Children of Incarcerated Parents was held on November 29. Much of the planning and focus was led by youth with incarcerated or justice involved parents. It highlighted effective programs, strategies and policies to improve the capacity of organizations to serve children, youth and families of the incarcerated. In addition to giving the closing keynote, NRCCFI Director, Ann Adalist-Estrin presented a session on Responding to the needs of young children of justice involved parents.

San Diego, California

The Zero to Three Organization provides training to those working with infants, toddlers and preschool aged children. At their annual conference, held this year in San Diego, NRCCFI coordinated a panel to address the needs of very young children impacted by the criminal justice system. Ann Adalist-Estrin was joined by Darryl Wilson, a formerly incarcerated father and coordinator of a Neighborhood Support program in Long Beach CA; Naomi Wilson, his daughter who was impacted by his incarceration as a very young child and who is now a freshman Journalism major at UC Irvine; Pediatrician, Dr. Mikah Owens from Jacksonville Florida; Dr. Mary Jane Simms, infant mental health specialist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital  in San Francisco and Rashawnda Lee Hackett, Family Support Coordinator, Alameda County Public Health Department and a formerly incarcerated mother. This panel focused on best practices and guiding principles for responding to the needs of young children with incarcerated parents.



One of the most important aspects of See Us Support Us or any public awareness campaign is that it offers a platform for the voices of children of incarcerated parents. Implementing the Bill of Rights with children birth to 8 is a challenge. For instance, I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me equally applies to young children, but the voice of the young child is rarely heard. It is left to adults to interpret. Training for professionals working with children can give them the tools to “hear” these voices by observing behaviors and understanding how young children communicate. Training for programs serving caregivers can offer tools for helping caregivers of young children to support their needs and also to effectively interpret their voices.

There are several resources that can help practitioners (in all disciplines) and caregivers, alike.

  • Infant mental health specialist, Michael Trout is the Director of the Infant -Parent Institute in Urbana, IL. His new video, They Took My Parent Away: Little Ones Affected by Incarceration Speak gives us  the unique perspective of very young children as they cope with parental incarceration. The digital version is free.

  • Attachment in young children with incarcerated fathers.

Poehlmann-Tynan J, Burnson CRunion HWeymouth LA

Dev Psychopathol. 2017 May;29(2):389-404.



The present study examined young children’s attachment behaviors during paternal incarceration and reported on initial validity of a new measure used to rate children’s attachment-related behaviors and emotions during visits in a Corrections setting. Seventy-seven children, age 2 to 6 years, and their jailed fathers and current caregivers participated in the home visit portion of the study, whereas 28 of these children participated in the jail visit. The results indicated that 27% of children witnessed the father’s crime and 22% of children witnessed the father’s arrest, with most children who witnessed these events exhibiting extreme distress; children who witnessed these events were more likely to have insecure attachments to their caregivers. Consistent with attachment theory and research, caregivers who exhibited more sensitivity and responsivity during interactions with children and those who provided more stimulating, responsive, learning-oriented home environments had children who were more likely to have secure attachments (measured with the Attachment Q-Sort). We also found preliminary evidence for the validity of our new measure, the Jail Prison Observation Checklist, in that children’s attachment-related behaviors and emotions during the jail visit correlated with their attachment security observed in the home. Our observations indicate that, in certain contexts, noncontact visits with incarcerated parents can be stressful for children and that children’s caregivers may play a significant role during these visits.

  • Statewide Dissemination of Sesame Street Resources for Families Affected by Incarceration Rebecca J. Shlafer, PhD, Amanda A. Wanous, BS, Erin C. Schubert, MA. Health Practice Promotion. First Published May 22, 2016


The number of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% in the past 20 years. Despite the growing need, few educational resources exist to promote the emotional health of young children with incarcerated parents. To address this need, Sesame Street recently released developmentally appropriate, multimedia resources, and piloted the dissemination of those resources in 10 states. The current study describes the process used in one pilot state to disseminate the resources; documents the reach of those dissemination efforts, including the number of resource kits distributed, number of community-based and clinical providers reached, and location of providers across the state; and examines providers’ impressions of the utility of the resources and their perspectives on how the resources support children and families affected by incarceration. This study has important implications for translating research evidence for community providers and practitioners who aim to promote the emotional health of young children affected by incarceration.

  • Video shares new findings about Sesame Street materials  for young  children with incarcerated parents

abo intervention for children with incarcerated parent

  • A Voice for the Young Child with an Incarcerated Parent

Although this is an older article ( 2012) it highlights the issues related to young children for legal professionals.



Philadelphia, PA


Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) has provided services to pregnant women and mothers of infants at the Riverside Correctional Facility (RCF) since November 2006. MOMobile Advocates partner with women during their incarceration to prepare them for or help them return to motherhood. Staff members assist each woman in the program with her re-entry and connection to family and community when she is released. 

Boston, MA and Washington D.C.

Smart From the Start


Smart from the Start is a family support, community engagement and school readiness organization that has as its mission to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income families and communities. While not specifically designed for children with incarcerated parents, many of the families in both Boston and D.C. locations are impacted by family involvement in the justice system. Programs include home visiting, parenting support, leadership training and more.


Alameda County, CA

MOMS (Maximizing Opportunities for Mothers to Succeed) Santa Rita Jail

Case management for pregnant and parenting mothers in Santa Rita jail during incarceration and up to 18 months after release. Uses an integrated early childhood mental health and child development perspective. Works to promote healthy parenting and reduced recidivism for incarcerated mothers. Works to reunite families. Case Manager assigned to assist mothers to transition from a custodial setting to the community.

Housing opportunity available for women who have successfully completed the program.

 Federally Funded Programs in States

Head Start and Early Head Start




  • OLHSA’s Head Start Connections/Father Factor program, in Michigan, helps incarcerated fathers maintain relationships with their children through educational activities as well as through other special events, such as birthday parties and other educational events.

Home Visiting Programs and Partnerships

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV Program) for children birth to five, supports programs serving incarcerated and formerly incarcerated mothers in Nevada and Rhode Island.

The Nevada Home Visiting Program provides voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to at-risk pregnant women and parents with young children. This is a partnership between the Washoe County, Nevada Sherriff’s Office, the Nevada MIECHV program, and University of Nevada, Reno’s Early Head Start program. 

The Office of Family Visiting at the Rhode Island Department of Health has been developing a relationship with the parent/family support staff at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections to refer individuals who are pregnant during incarceration or who are new parents, to their services.

MCHIEV funded programs in Pennsylvania and Maryland have also received training from NRCCFI in order to assist staff in responding to the needs of young children with incarcerated parents.