Today in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 28 children have a parent who is incarcerated, a rate higher than either juvenile diabetes or autism (Maruschak et al., 2010). Despite its high prevalence and implications for behavioral problems and poor health outcomes in children, parental incarceration has received relatively little attention from researchers, policymakers or professionals (Eddy & Poehlmann, 2010). Recently, we organized three programmatic efforts aimed at increasing professionals‘ knowledge of research and practice implications of this topic. Over 560 people, predominantly professionals in social services, education, and mental health fields participated in these efforts. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses indicated that these 3 efforts – 2 presentation-based seminars (Lessons from the Field (LFTF), Research to Practice Series at the Minnesota Association for Children‘s Mental Health Conference (MACMH)), and one online publication linking research and practice efforts (Children‘s Mental Health eReview) – contributed to significant learning:
• 85% of survey respondents indicated they learned about parental incarceration research;
• Perceptions of incarcerated parents were positively altered as a result of viewing Mother‘s of Bedford, a documentary shown at MACMH and LFTF;
• A majority of professionals indicated they planned to discuss what they learned with colleagues, and stated they planned to change their work as a result of participating;
• Qualitative themes across efforts included increased knowledge and feelings of empathy, and recognition of relevance of topic to professionals‘ work.
These changes in knowledge, perceptions, and practices demonstrate how Extension‘s mission of research and education is effectively strengthening families affected by incarceration across Minnesota.
Langworthy, Sara; Cronin, Sarah; Michaels, Cari; Myers, Judy.
Extension Programs Raise Awareness and Increase Knowledge about Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children and Families.
University of Minnesota Extension.
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