In The Presence of Children Training

According to the Department of Justice, it is estimated that more than 1.7 million American children currently have a parent in prison. Many of these children witnessed their parent being arrested by police.

These interactions can have long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on children. The manner in which officers arrest a parent and deal with children who are present have significant and long-lasting impacts on youths’ views of law enforcement, affecting their willingness to trust and cooperate with law enforcement and their future willingness to cooperate with police and to abide with the law.

SFY’s Report: First Do No Harm

Addressing these issues, SFY and the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, released a report entitled First Do No Harm: Model Practices for Law Enforcement When Arresting Parents in the Presence of Children.

Technical Assistance and IPOC Training For Law Enforcement

SFY is committed to ensuring that law enforcement agencies adopt and enforce best practices for interacting with youth. To that end, SFY offers technical assistance to build law enforcement agencies skills, policies, and partnerships with youth-serving organization at the officer and agency level. Strategies for Youth:

  • offers a special, one-day, 7 hour training entitled In the Presence of Children
  • supplies best practice policies for law enforcement agencies to provide dispatchers, officers, and command staff
  • promotes law enforcement agencies’ partnership with agencies that provide trauma-informed and mobile psychological services for children and their families

In 2014, the International Association of Police Chiefs issued Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents” providing protocols for departments to use, helping to address the needs of children at the time, or just after, their parent’s arrest. The report begins with the recognition that “[t]reating a child with compassion and thoughtfulness is not only the proper thing to do, it is also a hallmark of good policing that can have long-term positive benefits for the child and the community.”

Supporting Materials

SFY has developed a suite of tools for law enforcement departments to use to improve the treatment of children during a parent’s arrest. Thanks to the Sills Foundation, these materials are available from SFY at low cost. They include:

  • Protocol for Officers
  • Guide to Anticipating a Child’s Response at the Time of Arrest
  • Posters for the Booking Room (English and Spanish)
  • A Card for Parents (English and Spanish)
  • A Leave-behind Token of Compassion for Small Children, a Teddy Bear

Learn More »

Interesting in offering a training?

Contact SFY for more information at 617.714.3789 or email us at

Quotes from Children

SFY collected interviews from children whose parents had been arrested in their presence. Was there anything officers could do to make this difficult situation easier?

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