University Community

Voinovich School partnership recognized for Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) presented the Children of Incarcerated Parents (CIP) program with the Initiative Excellence Award at the second annual Children of Incarcerated Parents Summit in April. The award was presented in recognition of the training and support provided to communities and families impacted by incarceration. 

Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service is proud to share this award with the other members of the CIP Executive Committee: Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), and SheRays & Associates, LLC.

A prison visiting room can be an incredibly humbling experience. Residents file in and sit at separate tables. There’s a nervous energy in the air, and when the residents see their families arrive, emotions flow, and tears begin to swell. Younger children race into their parents' arms, while older kids may follow more cautiously, fully aware of the surroundings and what happens when visiting hours are over. 

In the last 50 years, the number of people incarcerated in Ohio prisons and jails has grown exponentially. The latest data shows that more than 270,000 children in Ohio have had a parent who was behind bars. In 2015, under then-governor John Kasich and with funding from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), more than 100 people were certified to use an evidence-based program, Creating Lasting Family Connections (CLFC), to assist incarcerated people, restored citizens, and their families. That same year, the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service at Ohio University, along with OhioMHAS, Mansfield UMADAOP, SheRays & Associates, LLC, and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), formed the Ohio Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative (OhioCIP).

One component of the OhioCIP is the Learning Community of Practice (COP), which trains boots-on-the-ground community organizations in the curriculum, helps to build administrative and facilitation skills, and instructs organizations on crucial building blocks of organizational capacity. The resulting work has provided a beacon of hope, an increase in healthy family reintegration, improvement in the quality of family relationships, and opportunities for positive development in families impacted by incarceration.

On April 16-17, in Dublin, the Voinovich School and their CIP partners hosted the second annual CIP Summit, two days of workshops and breakout sessions designed for community members, treatment and prevention staff, those formerly incarcerated, and adult family members.

Dr. Holly Raffle, Shemane Armour, Leslie Hoylman
Dr. Holly Raffle, Shemane Armour and Leslie Hoylman

“It provided an opportunity for people to connect in ways they might not,” says Leslie Hoylman, a project manager for the Partnership for Community-based Prevention (P4CBP) at the Voinovich School. Hoylman explained that community organizations are working diligently to serve their communities. “The CIP Summit gave them a chance to network and learn from one another, fostering a sense of community and support with the hopes of increasing their sustainability and capacity within their community.”

During the event, the Voinovich School was one of four organizations that received the Children of Incarcerated Parents Initiative Excellence Award. This is a special award given by OhioMHAS to organizations that provide exceptional service and contributions to support the initiative. The entire CIP Executive Committee (Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service at Ohio University, Mansfield UMADAOP, and SheRays & Associates, LLC) was recognized with the award.

The Ohio CIP Initiative was first implemented in three correctional facilities in Ohio to help prepare residents and their families for reentry by creating healthy family connections before release. The program has struck a chord with those behind bars. People who have completed the program have formed an “alumni” group to help support their fellow residents who are beginning the course.

“That support system they’ve built isn’t part of the program,” says Holly Raffle, professor and program director of the P4CBP for the Voinovich School. “That speaks to how important this program is to the participants.”

The CIP program has been shown to impact children profoundly, providing coping strategies and opportunities to bond meaningfully with family members and other youth. Each experience is different, but the knowledge that another person has a parent behind bars can provide comfort and a safe space to express their feelings.

“At the end of the day, their parents are going to be incarcerated until they're released,” says Raffle. “But when the parent comes home, they’ll have increased family skills, and the children also have those skills. It is beautiful to see the family unit moving forward together.”

More information on the OhioCIP and the CIP Summit is available at this website.

April 29, 2024
Staff reports