The Children’s Division recognizes parental incarceration as a unique challenge facing workers and the families they serve. The Children’s Service Worker should determine, at opening of the case, if either or both biological/legal parent is incarcerated in a Missouri Department of Corrections facility, a local correctional facility, an out-of-state correctional facility or a federal prison. The Children’s Service Worker should also obtain information regarding the length of the sentence and possible amount of time required to serve the sentence.
Related Subject: Section 1 Chapter 2 Roles and Responsibilities of the Parents and Their Children
The Children’s Service Worker should also determine the specifications of any court order, dissolution of marriage decree or a separation agreement, and considers the same in developing the Child Assessment and Service Plan, CS-1, for a child who has an incarcerated parent.
- Restrictions on contact between a child and an incarcerated parent, desired by the other parent, must have the approval of the court holding jurisdiction over the child or be specified in a divorce decree or separation agreement.
The Children’s Service Worker should obtain the name of the incarcerated individual and the address of the facility. This information is available for public use through the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) website, at https://www.doc.mo.gov, under the “Offender Web Search” link. The Offender Web Search application allows users to search by either the offender’s DOC ID or the offender’s first and last name. The information provided includes a general description such as height, weight, race, and sex, as well as Assigned Location, Active and Completed Offenses, and Aliases. If the offender has been released from prison on probation or parole, the assigned Probation/Parole Officer will be listed. All Missouri adult correctional facilities and Probation & Parole offices can be found on the DOC website above under the “Facility Locator” link.
The worker should develop the Child Assessment and Service Plan, CS-1, with the parent (with assistance of available staff of the correctional facility if consented to by the parent) including the following actions:
- Apply other procedures to the extent possible and as needed including tasks related to the CS-1.
- Send a letter giving the parent an explanation of the Division’s wish to include him/her in every feasible way in planning for the welfare of the child and include the Notice to Incarcerated Parent, CS-2.
- Inform the parent of his/her rights and responsibilities. The worker will mail or deliver to the incarcerated parent the Know Your Rights brochure, CS-132, and the Handbook for Parents of Children in Alternative Care, CS-304. Once the worker has informed the incarcerated parent of his/her rights, the worker will document in the case record that the parent had been educated regarding their rights and responsibilities.
Related Subject: Section 1 Chapter 2 Role and Responsibilities of Parents and Their Children
- Send the treatment plan or the court approved plan to the parent to signify agreement by signing the plan and returning it to the worker. The worker should include a self addressed stamped envelope when sending the treatment plan to the incarcerated parent(s).
The Children’s Service Worker and the parent(s) should implement the treatment plan following applicable steps of other procedures of this section and include the following actions:
- Obtain and clarify the non-incarcerated parent’s and child’s (if age appropriate) understanding of incarcerated parent’s circumstance.
- Obtain the non-incarcerated parent’s and child’s (if age is appropriate) perception of the importance of the incarcerated parent.
- Assist non-incarcerated parent and child in maintaining familial relationship with absent parent.
- Division staff do not have the right to inform the child of his/her parents’ status as incarcerated should the child have no knowledge of the absent parent’s circumstance. Staff should work through the available parent in carrying out the case/treatment plan.
The Children’s Service Worker will keep the incarcerated parent informed of the child’s placement, development, and well-being through worker/parent visits, letters, and other appropriate communication methods, (i.e., tape recordings, pictures, etc).
- If a change occurs regarding the child (i.e. change in location or worker) the worker will notify the parent of the changes by phone or letter or phone and document such in the case record.
The Children’s Service Worker should meet with the parent each month if the location of the parent’s incarceration is within the county of assignment. If not, the case manager must conduct monthly contact with the incarcerated parent by either teleconference or videoconference. Contact with the incarcerated parent by teleconference or videoconference must be arranged through the authorized representative of the correctional institution. The incarcerated parent’s correctional institution case worker shall be invited to participate in all monthly worker/parent contacts by teleconference or videoconference to provide information on the parent’s progress.
Incarcerated parents’ participation in Family Support Team (FST) meetings or Permanency Planning Review Team (PPRT) meetings is critical and should be arranged through the offender’s correctional institution case worker via teleconference or videoconference. Videoconferencing is encouraged to increase the parent’s degree of inclusion as an active, participating member of the FST. The parent’s correctional institution case worker should be invited to participate in FST meetings and PPRT meetings to provide information to the team on the parent’s status and progress.
Visits shall be arranged through an authorized representative of the correctional facility.
The Children’s Division supports visitation and other forms of contact between parent(s) and child(ren) when it is in the best interest of the child. If a parent is incarcerated, the worker will contact the correctional facility regarding its visitation policy and subsequent visitation should be scheduled in conjunction with the facility. The Family Support Team (FST) should discuss and make recommendations to the court regarding continued visitation between the parent and their child(ren) keeping in mind the best interest of the child. The worker will arrange for and facilitate visits between the child and the incarcerated parents as frequently as possible using parental and community resources to meet transportation needs. Staff may also partner with the faith-based community to help with visitation. If community resources are not available, staff should seek supervisory approval for the Division to meet transportation costs. Discussions regarding termination of parental rights should not take place during parent/child visits.
Related Subject: Section 4 Chapter 26 Termination of Parental Rights
The Children’s Service Worker will advise parent to contact the jurisdictional court (juvenile or circuit, if a divorce or legal separation has occurred) if the parent wishes to have any restrictions placed on the visiting arrangements included in the case plan.
- The case plan should be continued until the jurisdictional court has made a decision and/or a court order has been issued.
The Children’s Service Worker will seek guidance from his/her immediate supervisor and the juvenile court if the implementation of the case plan indicates restrictions should be placed on the visiting plan or other contacts between the child and the incarcerated parent(s).
- The potential need for restrictions on contacts between an incarcerated parent and a child in out-of-home care should be carefully considered and include supervisory guidance and best interest of the child before recommending restrictions to the court.
The Children’s Service Worker shall record all activities every 30 days.
- The case manager must be assigned from the county of court jurisdiction for the child. If the county of court jurisdiction is different from the county of placement of the child or the location of the incarcerated parent, coordination of all planning and service delivery will be the responsibility of the case manager.
Suggestion for Best Practice for Supportive Visitation Between Incarcerated Parent and Child, Excerpt from “Working with Children and Families Separated by Incarceration”, by Lois E. Wright and Cynthia B. Seymour:
- The worker should facilitate visits, when possible. He/she should know visiting procedures and restrictions (i.e. all visitors must be on the offender’s visiting list) of the facility and prepare the child and caregiver for what it will be like to visit the prison.
- The worker may want to help the parent and child use visits productively. Talk with the parent before the visits to help him/her focus on the purpose of the visits and how he/she and the child(ren) can get the most from it. If the worker is taking the child to the facility, the worker might need to prepare the child before the visit and discuss the child’s reaction to the visit afterward.
- The worker may want to educate the caregivers regarding the importance and dynamics of visitation. The caregiver may want to protect the child from the parent and from the prison environment – citing the child’s behavior and mood before, during, and after visits as reason for discontinuing visits.
- Offer concrete support around visitation. The distance many families will have to travel to visit the incarcerated parent may be great and the availability or cost of transportation may be an issue. Provide and/or help them find community assistance with transportation to the facility. These challenges should be discussed at the FST meeting.
- Staff should understand the agency’s responsibility regarding visitation. While staff will want to support caregivers in facilitating parent-child contact, ultimately it is the agency’s responsibility to ensure that parent-child contact occurs. Failure to address the obstacles around visitation may be considered a failure of the agency’s “reasonable efforts” requirement.