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March 2013Vol. 14, No. 2Contact Visits With Incarcerated Parents

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) reported that over 25 percent of the children in the State's custody in 2010 had incarcerated parents. The publication Connecting Children With Incarcerated Parents examines the plight of children who have an imprisoned parent, the importance and benefits of keeping these children connected with their separated parent, and the innovative approaches and best practices New Mexico uses to preserve meaningful family connections.

CYFD efforts are guided by best practice, which dictates that children should be cared for and kept informed, have access to necessary services, and, when it is in the best interests of the child, should be able to maintain contact with their incarcerated parent. Studies have shown that parent-child visits, particularly contact visits that allow a child to touch his or her parent, can substantially decrease the negative effects of parental incarceration. Adverse reactions to the trauma of separation can manifest in aggressive behavior and acting out that, without proper intervention services and support, can lead to additional negative outcomes—delinquency, incarceration, family instability, economic hardship, school failure, poor health, and more. When contact visits are not possible, best practice encourages communication via phone, video conferencing, letter writing, and pictures. Maintaining contact during this type of separation has also been associated with reduced rates of recidivism by the parent.

The bulletin discusses the importance of collaboration between CYFD, the Department of Health, the Human Services Department, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), the school system, and the courts to effectively provide services to and improve outcomes for children with incarcerated parents. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of each player in the collaborative planning effort. The bulletin concludes with a Bill of Rights that was developed by the San Francisco Partnership for Incarcerated Parents after consultation with youth who have experienced this form of separation.

Connecting Children With Incarcerated Parents, collaboratively published by the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center at the University of New Mexico School of Law, CYFD, the New Mexico Children's Court Improvement Commission, the New Mexico Citizens Review Board, the New Mexico CASA Network, and Advocacy Inc., was updated in 2011 and is available on the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center website: (268 KB)

Additional Child Protection Best Practices Bulletins are available here: