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.
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.
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:
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.”
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:
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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