The Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) Parenting in Jail program in Okmulgee has reported a 64 percent success rate of graduates who have had more contact with their children because of the program.
Ongoing in Tulsa County for six years, the Parenting in Jail program features the Parenting Inside Out (PIO) curriculum designed to deliver evidence-based parent management skills created for justice-involved parents. The curriculum supplies a non-traditional approach to parent education due to the impact of parent-child separation that results from incarceration. The program initially started with women, and the Parenting in Jail program for men started this summer.
In Okmulgee, the 12-week curriculum is delivered via a group setting of 10 women over a four-week period. When this ends, another group will begin. There have been three graduations, and the fourth cohort of women will begin classes next week. Plans are to start a similar program for men in the future.
“In my 32 years as a law enforcement officer, I have never seen a program that has had such an immediate impact on the participants,” said Jon Keim, director of Community Relations for the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority. “The women involved have a better outlook on their future as parents and their children have been impacted in all areas of their lives by the positive interactions during visits as a result of this program.”
Since classes began in April, 25 women with 35 caregivers and 53 minor children have been affected. The F&CS team eases weekly supervised visits between women and their children, where they can read, play, hug, and visit with each other. To date, 23 children have taken part in the visits. One set of siblings now visits their mother weekly after more than two years of separation. Caregivers receive gas cards to reduce transportation barriers, resources about how to talk to children about a loved one’s incarceration, and connections to basic needs aid and community services.
The program expanded to several counties surrounding Tulsa through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program awarded last year. In addition to conducting evidence-based parenting classes for women in jail twice a week, weekly visits are available for women and their minor children. Participants have included mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and women of childbearing age.