In June 2015, Project WHAT! launched a 10-point policy platform to improve services and policies for San Francisco’s children and youth with incarcerated parents.
We are Project WHAT! Youth Advocates. All of us have had a parent incarcerated either currently or in the past. We have a vision for a better San Francisco, one where our cities’ youth with incarcerated parents are able to live free of judgment and blame. We have a vision where our city prioritizes supporting vulnerable populations, rather than punishing them. As youth who have the most direct experience of what it’s like to grow up with a parent behind bars, we have made it our top priority to make this vision a reality.
Based on our personal experiences and the data we gathered from our youth-led participatory action research project (including 100 surveys and ten focus groups with youth, teachers, social workers, police officers, caregivers, and judicial decision makers), we created our policy platform.
The following policy recommendations are what we know will improve the lives of San Francisco’s children and youth with incarcerated parents. See the full Project WHAT! Policy Report for more information. If you are interested in print versions, please contact DeAngela Cooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 Policy recommendations
- WIN! All San Francisco Police Department officers should be trained and required to follow protocol on how to reduce trauma to children when arresting a parent.
- WIN! The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department should make their “inmate locator” user friendly and accessible online so that children and youth can find out where their parent is located and how to contact them.
- Phone calls should be free between incarcerated parents at San Francisco County Jail and their children.
- Win! When youth are 16 years old they should be able to visit their parents by themselves in San Francisco County Jail without another parent or guardian present for their visit (which is consistent with the federal prison system’s visiting age).
- Win! When a parent is transferred from San Francisco County Jail to the California state prison system, children should be offered three private contact visits to say goodbye to their parent and come up with a plan to stay in communication.
- When a parent is transferred from San Francisco County Jail to state prison, the city of San Francisco should provide the funding to the family to cover the child’s transportation costs for a minimum of six visits per year.
- Community-based re-entry support services should be available to all parents leaving San Francisco County Jail specializing in housing, employment, health care, and family reunification. Support services should not have an expiration date.
- When a parent has been incarcerated for more than one year, restorative justice services should be offered to all children whose parents are being released from San Francisco County Jail both pre and post release.
- San Francisco Unified School District should prioritize specific support services for San Francisco’s 18,000 children of incarcerated parents.
- Teachers, therapists, and social workers should be required to attend trainings by and about children of incarcerated parents. Additional mental health care services should be offered for free to all children of incarcerated parents in the San Francisco Unified School District and the child welfare system.