The agency in focus is Children of Inmates located in Miami Dade County, Florida. In Florida alone there are over 300, 000 who have an incarcerated parent. The agency attempts to help such children by helping them re- establish connection and re- bond with their parents. The office of the organization is located in Miami Gardens; however most of the activities performed by Children of Inmates are conducted outside of the office building. The agency does three main types of work to help children with incarcerated parents: bonding visits, public advocacy and providing assistance to children (Children of Inmates, 2018).
The agency first of all tries to ensure that children whose parent(s) got incarcerated can stay in contact with them even if they can’t see each other often. Children of Inmates allow their representatives to meet children in different informal setting and establish whether both parties (children and parents) are indeed willing to meet. If so, meetings are arranged so that children can stay in touch or re- bond with their incarcerated parents. The agency also closely monitors development and social needs of children, and in case a problem is identified offers referrals to social services which can best address children`s needs. This is important because many families with incarcerated members are socially underprivileged and may be afraid to seek help. Children of Inmates guides these families through such process and helps with a number of issues including paperwork (Children of Inmates, 2018).
The assessment strategy, as the intervention itself, were based on the premises of the PRAISES model. The framework consists of five subsequent stages that have to be followed: (1) the pre- intervention; (2) assessment; (3) intervention; (4) systematic evaluation; and (5) stabilization of the steps (Bloom & Phillips, 2018). Such model was applied to help a girl, who after her father has been incarcerated, had emotionally distanced herself from her family and did not attend school multiple times. The girl`s grandmother has also reported her constantly being in bad mood and experiencing anxiety. Importantly, the entire extended family is concerned about the issue. The first step to help the client, a girl of 9 years of age, was to enroll her into the Children of Inmates program. A referral has to be completed by the inmate (father) or by the client who wants to be in the program. After the office staff members will receive confirmation, the home visit followed to complete the necessary paperwork.
The key measure taken within the context of the intervention was to access how incarceration of the child`s parent (father) has impacted his well- being. In order to do that a number of assessment tools are suggested. One of such assessment measures is the Depression and Anxiety Scale- 21 (DAS- 21), which allows to quantify levels of stress, depression and anxiety among the target population (Rojas-Flores et al., 2017). Zeman et al. (2016) report that children of incarcerated parents are negatively impacted by imprisonment and can develop symptoms of anxiety and depression. Application of the DAS “ 21 questionnaire has demonstrated that the girl scored normal on depression scale (2), however experienced mild anxiety (4), and felt extremely stressed (17 out of 21). These results demonstrate that the client indeed experiences symptoms of stress and anxiety most likely caused by incarceration of her father.
During the first encounters with the client major issues were experienced. The girl was unwilling to talk about her father, or discuss any other matters. When asked about where her father is, she replied that he is at work. The social work intern has therefore decided to apply the game strategy to engage with the child. According to the client`s grandmother, the child enjoyed pottery class and therefore a session of games involving clay was chosen to establish the contact. Adopting such technique indeed helped to establish a connection with the client and initiate a dialogue. At the end of the session, the client indeed acknowledged that her father was in prison and that she felt bad about it.
According to Zeman et al. (2016) it is important to consider various factors that can inhibit or promote the desired change. In this case, the ultimate goal is to decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety within the client and help her develop bond with her father, despite him being incarcerated. One of the key challenges is that the client`s family possesses a vehicle, however the incarcerated father is the only one who drives. This makes it difficult for the child to regularly visit her father. Another problem is that the child`s mother is rarely at home as she is busy working. Detached parent can create a significant barrier when attempting to develop a strong bond and help a child (Bloom & Phillips, 2018; Rojas-Flores et al., 2016). Therefore, it is important to ensure that other guardians of the child have sufficient knowledge and understanding concerning how they can help the child deal with the change associated with parental incarceration. One key positive aspect is an extended family (grandparents) who became aware of the problem and involved the agency to attempt to solve it. According to Rojas-Flores et al. (2017), help from the extended family can often create environment for child where they feel safe and do not feel isolated.
The specific baseline measures are highly important within this intervention. Some of the key measures will be related to the child being able to reconnect and regularly communicate with her father. The reconnection is important for both of them, however more so for the girl, as it will help her cope with the increased stress and anxiety. Another important measure will concern the actual levels of the anxiety and stress which can be measured using the tool discussed before – the Depression and Anxiety Scale- 21. Additional measures may be applied if needed depending on the obtained intermediate results of the assessment.
The measures discussed above will be used to establish whether the actual goals of the interventions were achieved by the agency or not. The following goals have been developed to guide the planned intervention: (1) to ensure that the client regularly visits her father (at least once per week) during the course of the intervention; (2) to ensure that the client`s levels of anxiety and stress are reduced to the normal level by the end of the intervention. It is essential that the established goal meet the SMART criteria, and therefore it will be possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the planned intervention.
The analysis of scholarly evidence- based literature suggests that a number of interventions may be appropriate within this specific case. First of all, the first type of intervention should be focused on facilitation of family unit enhancement. This will allow to help the client deal with the increasing uncertainty related to the parent incarceration. The specific step will be to ensure weekly meeting sessions when the client can see her father and bond with him. Such element of bonding can help strengthen family relations and self- esteem of the child. In addition to that the bond can help promote ethical behaviors in a child. Ensuring regular visitations can help avoid incarcerated parents not participating in upbringing of their children. The latter has been documented as a common problem (Rojas-Flores et al., 2017). The intervention, however, has to be desired by both parties to make it effective and promote actual bonding.
Another intervention will concerning having short counselling sessions with the client. Such sessions will help encourage the client focus on the positive sides of the situation (e.g., the fact that she can see her father), as well as address some issues/ concerns the child may find confusing or difficult to address without professional help (Bloom & Phillips, 2018). Such focus on positive sides can help promote positive behavior and help the child succeed in school.
Another important intervention should involve providing counseling services to the guardians of a child. The guardians may experience uncertainty and difficulties associated with their new role. The guardians may also require some training and help in helping the child stay focused on positivity. According to Rojas-Flores et al. (2017) in such dysfunctional families children often feel isolated, and therefore more likely to engage in dangerous or even self- harming behaviors. Counselling sessions, on the other hand, can help guardians gain skills and understanding necessary to guide children and create a positive environment, which is both inclusive and supportive.
In order to assess the effectiveness of the intervention, the child performance will be evaluated six months prior to the beginning and six months after. The questionnaire will be used to assess stress and anxiety measures as well as ensure consistency of the obtained information. The tests will be developed on the specific measures obtained and it will be ensured that they are not intrusive for the child and the family. Finally, the trend- based approach will be used as the researcher will attempt to analyze and identify any trends/ patters emerging from the data during the course of the intervention.
The termination process will be a logic finalizing step within the context of the PRAISES model. First of all, it will be communicated to all of the stakeholders that the intervention will last a certain period (6 -7 months) and then will end with the final evaluation. It is important that such timeframe is communicated not only to the child, but also the incarcerated parent and the guardians of the child. In order to ensure sustainability of the intervention, more responsibility will be placed on the guardians during the course of the intervention. This will help ensure that the child can indeed continue implementing change once the intervention ends.
Bloom, B., & Phillips, S. (2017). In whose best interest? The impact of changing public policy on relatives caring for children with incarcerated parents. In Children with Parents in Prison (pp. 63-74). Routledge.
Children of Inmates (2018). About us: programs. Available at: https://www.childrenofinmates.org/ServicesforChildren.aspx
Rojas-Flores, L., Clements, M. L., Hwang Koo, J., & London, J. (2017). Trauma and psychological distress in Latino citizen children following parental detention and deportation. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9(3), 352.
Zeman, J., Dallaire, D., & Borowski, S. (2016). Socialization in the context of risk and psychopathology: Maternal emotion socialization in children of incarcerated mothers. Social Development, 25(1), 66-81.
Social worker and agency assignment children of inmates. (2019, Mar 18).
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