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Keeping Children Safe When Their Parents Are Arrested: Local Approaches That Work

NCJ Number
Ginny Puddefoot M.P.H., M.P.P.; Lisa K. Foster M.S.W., M.P.A.
Date Published
July 2007
98 pages
This report describes a number of programs created by local jurisdictions in California that serve the needs of children when their parents are arrested.
The programs described are operating in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose/Santa Clara County. Based on the lessons learned from these programs, this report identifies factors that increase the chance of success for a joint approach to keeping children safe when their parents are arrested. One factor is a timely response by child welfare services staff to law-enforcement officers' requests for consultation or assistance at an arrest scene. A second factor is the co-location of child welfare services staff at law enforcement facilities. A third factor is the cross-training of staff for agencies involved in services for children of arrestees. This training should focus on the roles and responsibilities of each agency as well as the effects of a parent's arrest on his/her children. Another important factor in an effective program for arrestees' children is having a designated liaison officer who reviews cases, handles questions and complaints, manages problem solving, and facilitates ongoing collaboration among agencies serving the children. The law enforcement agencies and child welfare services agencies that have participated in the described programs cite a number of benefits achieved by the programs. They have reduced the traumatic effects on children of a parent's arrest, as well as the amount of time law enforcement officers spend supervising children at the arrest scene until caregivers or child welfare services staff arrive. In addition, there has been an increase in positive feedback and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, arrested parents, and the community at large. There has also been a reduction in the number of children taken into custody by child welfare services and in the associated costs of formal placement. Appended model protocol, relevant legislation, sample materials of the described programs, and resources (report and training material)