FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2012
CONTACT: Mary Beth Mueller
PCGF Releases Report Identifying Initiative’s Success “Changing Lives, Changing Systems” For Children of Prisoners Foundation’s Third Report to the Community highlights accomplishments of 10-year initiative advocating for children of arrested and incarcerated parents
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF) today released its third report to the community that examines the impact of parental incarceration – which affects 15 percent of children living in Allegheny County – and highlights accomplishments of the foundation’s 10-year initiative to advocate for children of arrested and incarcerated parents.
“During this decade we have interviewed and joined a thousand partners, published and presented hundreds of reports and awarded a million dollars in grants,” according to Foundation President Charlotte Brown. “This advocacy has resulted in significant system changes and impacted the lives of thousands of children and families here in Allegheny County and many other places in the Commonwealth and the nation.”
Currently 100,000 children in Pennsylvania – and 8,500 in Allegheny County – are separated from one or both parents by locks, bars, and policies that discourage contact, according to Shirley Moore Smeal, Executive Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is on the same path as Allegheny County concerning the need to reform the prison system so it successfully discourages people from coming back. We understand the importance of involving children and families in this reform not only because it strengthens family ties but because it has been proven to reduce recidivism.”
According to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a majority of the 35,000 adults arrested in Allegheny County each year are parents, providing a powerful motivation for many inmates to turn their lives around. “The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative and its Reentry Program are models for the nation in fighting recidivism, that’s repeated crime and returns to jail. The Jail Collaborative has proven itself both in human terms and in dollars and cents. A study by the University of Pittsburgh has shown that for every $1 invested in these programs, the citizens of the County have saved $6 in costs of crime and corrections.“
The work of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation has greatly influenced the priorities of the Jail Collaborative – a cooperative effort among the Allegheny County Jail, Department of Human Services, Health Department and Court of Common Pleas – stated Allegheny County Director of Human Services Marc Cherna. “Based in part on data provided by the Foundation, the Collaborative has developed reintegration and reentry programming, created an organized release process and engaged community agencies to strengthen families.”
The Hon. Kim Berkeley Clark, a judge in Allegheny County Family Court, spoke of her personal commitment to responding to the Foundation’s research findings. “After reading in the First Report to the Community that none of the almost 120 police departments in the County had written guidelines or training for officers to protect children from trauma at the time of arrest, I convened a task force that wrote guidelines and piloted training. Parents matter to children and children matter to parents – this is just as true when parents are arrested and incarcerated.”
The press event concluded with personal remarks by Ronnell Anderson, an Amachi Pittsburgh Ambassador who has experienced life as the child of an incarcerated parent. Ms. Anderson is a junior at Slippery Rock University, where she is pursuing a degree in English Professional Writing.
According to the Third Report to the Community, since the Foundation launched its initiative in 2003, an expanding group of public officials, citizens, and criminal justice professionals has mobilized to create:
- A protocol to protect children from trauma at the time of a parent’s arrest
- A resource to facilitate communication with families so children do not fear that their parents are lost
- A renovated Jail lobby to provide a welcoming waiting room for children
- A reentry program in the Jail to help families heal and encourage parents to bond with their children
- A discharge center to assist parents with getting home to their children and avoiding an immediate return to jail
- An “ombudsman” to help families of incarcerated parents navigate the mazes of the criminal justice and human services systems
- State and local judicial and legislative changes to protect children’s need and right to be parented even when their parents are in jail
As the Foundation concludes the decade-long initiative, partners continue to build a County-wide commitment to increase public safety and protect children from the unintended consequences of arresting and imprisoning their parents, according to Dr. Brown. “The work is not done and requires continued energy, effort, and passion to assure that the children caught in this epidemic of imprisonment are not forgotten. Our children deserve nothing less.”
The complete Third Report to the Community – along with an eight-page digest – is posted on the PCGF website at www.PittsburghChildGuidanceFoundation.org.
The Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation has been a force for promoting children’s mental health in Allegheny County for more than 80 years. It was established in 1930 as a Center for psychiatric services for children and transformed in 1982 into a Foundation to continue its mission.