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Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents: An Overview

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2014
6 pages
This Part 1 of a two-part Training Key on safeguarding the children of arrested parents presents an overview that defines key terms used in the discussion and outlines the legal obligations that govern the actions of officers when managing the arrests of parents with children.
The overview expands on what research has shown, i.e., that children of all ages are vulnerable to potential trauma following the arrest of a parent, although reactions may vary by age. Given the potential harms to children occasioned by the arrest of a parent, failure to respond appropriately to these children can make law enforcement agencies and their officers civilly liable when officers are not trained to take reasonable measures to safeguard these children. Although the U.S. Supreme Court does not provide an affirmative right to government aid, the Court has established two exceptions that may create a law enforcement officer's duty to protect citizens. One exception relates to "state-created danger." Under this exception, a duty to protect may exist if an officer or other government operative leaves a person in a more dangerous situation than the one in which he/she was found, creating a previously non-existent danger or increasing the danger." This requirement could apply to officer's duty to protect children of a parent in the course of the parent's arrest. This paper also discusses the scope of the problem of harm to children occasioned by the arrest of a parent, and a real-life example of such harm is provided. Suggestions are offered for partnering with community child welfare organizations to address this problem. 20 notes