The Social Service Board at NYSEC combined the use of video communications technology with caring staff supervision to create its Tele-visiting program designed to address the well-being and development needs of children with incarcerated parents.
Ethics in Action: Responding to a Crisis for Children
Over two million children have a parent who is currently incarcerated in the United States. Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail, houses over 14,000 peo-ple, the majority of whom are parents. SSB launched its Supportive Televisiting Services Program in 2012 to help heal these families by providing opportunities for children to maintain contact with their incarcer-ated parents whom they miss and love. Research studies underscore the benefits these visits can provide:
A healthy connection with a parent may:
1.Prevent or reduce a child’s behavioral, emotional, or school problems
2.Lessen separation trauma and preserve a child’s secure attachment
3. Promote a healthier family transition after release
Televisiting provides opportunities to:
1.Reassure and comfort children during separation
2.Interact together: read, play games, & create art
3.Celebrate special moments and milestones
As work on the program progressed, it became clear that the effort would be greatly enhanced by the addition of support activities for the incarcerated parents, as well as the children, and their caregivers. Work is currently underway to provide some of these support services. The program attracted the attention of faith-based and community organizations who share com-mon concerns. Supportive Televisiting Services has responded by providing consultant services and train-ing sessions for organizations, faith-based groups and mental health professionals.
Televisits increase the time shared between children and their parents by supplementing face-to-face contact. Program staff provides support for parents and children to maximize the benefit of their time together. Staff also visit correctional facilities to screen and select participants, and contact the child’s caregiver to determine eligibility before scheduling visits.