Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis.

Mother in Prison. Children in Crisis. aired in 2002. Be advised that statistics in the film may have changed since then.

Women are now the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Eighty percent of women in prison are mothers. Seventy-five percent are mothers of minor children and studies show that these children are 5 to 6 times more likely to be imprisoned in their futures.

At a time when tougher prison sentences are being handed down and more children are being affected by a parent's incarceration, AETN presents a documentary that looks at the social, economic, political, and emotional costs.

AETN producers interviewed mothers in prison, children, caregivers, child welfare experts and prison authorities in an attempt to illustrate how a mother's incarceration affects her children.

Production Partners

Funding for the "Mothers in Prison: Children in Crisis" documentary was provided in part by The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, as part of it's emphasis on economic, racial and social justice.

In 1974, the Trustees of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller's estate endowed The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to continue the work of The Rockwin Fund. Governor Rockefeller set up The Rockwin Fund in 1954 and, on an annual basis from 1956 until his death in 1973, funded projects and programs he believed were important to improving the quality of life in Arkansas. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation whose mission is to improve the lives of Arkansans by funding programs and projects that improve education; economic development; and economic, racial and social justice. During the past 28 years, the Foundation has awarded over $62 million in grants. To learn more about The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, click here (

This program would not have been possible without the assistance of Centers for Youth and Families.

Centers for Youth and Families is a private, not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization that provides specialized prevention and intervention services to help the emotional and social well-being of children and families. The Centers has provided services to mothers in prison, their children, and the caregivers since 1991. One of the services operated by the Centers is Family Matters. The Family Matters program provides services, support, and advocacy for children while a mother is incarcerated in our state prison system. Some of the other services offered by The Parent Center at the Centers for Youth and Families include parenting classes for mothers and fathers in our state's prisons, mother-child visitations for mothers in prison at the McPherson Unit who attend the Parenting from Prison classes, and kinship support groups for caregivers. Phone: (501) 660-6886

Warden Jim Cooksey, McPherson and Grimes Units, Newport, Arkansas

I've been in corrections for 18 years. I started in corrections at FCI Memphis in 1983, out of college. I went to USP Atlanta and then came back to Tennessee due to family and was brought up in the Tennessee system until 1992, at which time I went to work for a Corrections Corporation of America and then from Corrections Corporation of America I went to Wackenhut which in turn moved me to Arkansas in October of 2000, and I've been in Arkansas since October 2000 here at the grounds of the McPherson Unit. [Read More]

Diane Swaim, Executive Director, Second Genesis Transitional Home for Women Leaving Prison

Second Genesis started with the interest of a woman named Jean Cohen, who was a Chaplain at the time at Tucker Prison in Pine Bluff, the women's unit and Jean continued to see the women who would leave and they would say, "We're never coming back. We're going to make it this time" and within months they'd be back in and she kept asking, "What is – why are you coming back? Why is it that you can't make it out there?" And generally their answer would be, "Well, if we just had some support." We go right back in to the same family, the same neighborhood, the same friends and we get back in the same situation which almost inevitably included either drugs and/or alcohol and/or abuse. And so they wouldn't have to create a new crime or perform a new crime, they would simply have to break their parole and they could use any drugs, alcohol, that would break their parole. So, they'd go back in. So, she came up with the dream of if there was a place that you could go that would change your environment and give you a stay for a little while and just give you a boost and that's really what I think we try to do is just give them a boost. [Read More]

Dina Tyler - Arkansas Department of Corrections

I think, to a large degree, many people take the image that they've seen of corrections and of prisons from the movie screen and take it to heart and think that's the way it is and I think that many times everybody thinks that if someone commits a crime and they're sentenced to incarceration, that while they're here they should be absolutely miserable, that we should punish them every day. That's not our job to punish. The punishment is being sent here. Our job is to maintain the safety and good order of the institutions to make sure that everybody who's supposed to be here is here, to keep everybody safe and to provide something for them to be a little different. If we don't do that, if we don't try, they're just coming back. All of them are coming back and we've already seen our population nearly double each of the last three decades and the growth rate of the female population is far out-pacing that of the male population. That means that we have to do stuff in here and sometimes it may be innovative programs. It may be new programs. It may be revamping programs we already have but we've got to do things to try and stem that tide from our end. And the other side of the coin is, in a community things have to be done to try and stem the tide from that end so that they don't come here because if we continue, if the State of Arkansas continues at the present growth rate, there is not enough money in our budget to keep up with the rate of crime. We can't build our way out of this. There is no way Arkansas or any state can afford that. [Read More]

Estella Brown

Catherine's House is a non-profit organization. We work with adults and teens to help them get their GED and computer literacy. Catherine's House was run through a lady named Catherine McCullough out of Dublin, Ireland and she wanted something to help other young people who were less fortunate than she was and she found some people that was helping her. So, she decided she wanted to help someone else and so they created a program through the Sisters of Mercy out of St. Louis, Missouri. And here in Little Rock it's been here ever since 1995 run through the Sisters of Mercy here in Little Rock out of St. Louis, My job now is Head Start connection and what I do is go in to a Head Start Center to see what child or children have parents incarcerated to connect them with the material things that child or children are doing. [Read More]

Brenda Olive

It was on my mother's birthday which was November the 10th. They put my husband in the hospital and I took Deana the same day for a check up and they put her in the hospital. So, he told me to tell Deana that they would race this season to see who would get out first. Well, he died November 26th which that year was the day I had Thanksgiving and so Deana was still in the hospital. So, I really didn't want her to know that he died. So, I asked the nurse to put a note on her door the same night, so they called me and they told I needed to come up and tell her because someone was going to. So, I went in to the hospital and I told her that her father had died. And the only thing she asked me, she knew he was in intensive care and on a machine. So, the only thing she asked me was did I turn the machine off? And I told her, "No". So, she was all right with that. And so during the time they said there was nothing else they could do for her. So, she had decided that she wanted to come home. So, she came home the day of his funeral because there was nothing else they could do for her. And we were going through that. Everything because when she wanted to come home, that means she needed care. So, I had to make a decision. Do I tell her, "No, she can't come home because I have to work"? Or do I take a leave of absence and give her what her last thing is she wants and that's to come home? So, I decided to let her come home. [Read More]

Alisha Sryrock

My family and I moved to Arkansas in October of 1998 from Atlanta, Georgia. My husband and my three (3) children and myself. When we moved out here, my husband had not worked for about three and a half (3 1/2) years and we moved out here, to try to start over, to make a new start, a lot of marriage problems and thought change would be good. And after we got here, his routine continued. He never found a job. I decided that I would be better off financially without him because he was just adding to the stress and the strain and supporting him without him helping the family out. He moved back to Georgia in February and everything hit rock bottom. I didn't put in to perspective that I was going to be adding childcare for three (3) children on top of all of the other bills that I had and my finances just went tremendously down the drain. They (DHS) can't help provide childcare. They told me I needed to buy a new car or a car with less payments, less insurance, a house with less rent and I didn't have the money to do all of that. I didn't really think about what I did before I did it. A friend of mine that I had moved in with after the children and I got evicted from our home, had taken some checks from her sister and I was the ignorant one that wrote them. I was charged with forgery and every check that was written was for diapers, plus food, necessities. I mean, it wasn't, it wasn't anything that we didn't need. In June of 1999 I got arrested, went to jail and that same day my children went in to foster care. [Read More]


I hope you have children. And if you do, you know that a mother should be with her children. A child should have a relationship with their mother. They don't have their mom. They don't have that nurturing and caring. A mother should be someone that that child can count on to be there no matter what. And I'm not there; I've taken that away from them by my being here. Yeah, they get to come see me, but that doesn't make up for what I need to be doing, where a mother needs to be. They need to be there tucking them into bed, you know reading them stories at night, helping them with their prayers. I want to do that. I want to be the one to do that, and someone else is having to do that for me. And that's taking from them. [Read More]


I grew up in on the north side of Little Rock. My mother was a single parent. My father died when I was four years old and she raised five kids on her own. And she didn't drink or drug or club or anything, she raised me in church and everything, but as I got older I felt like I was being sheltered. I felt like I couldn't do what other kids did, or she favored my brothers and sisters more than me, because she expected more of me. And that made me rebel against what she wanted me to do in life. And as I got older, I just went astray. [Read More]

Kenya Richardson

I saw the doctor once a month. I went, everyday, to get my prenatal vitamins. They took me out to a free world doctor to get an ultra sound done. We ate three times a day, and you could buy snacks off of the commissary. So if you wanted to eat more, you could eat more. I left the actual prison, and went to a program called the MINT program, which is mothers and infants needed together. And they send you there, three months before you have the baby, and the baby stays there with you for three months. So at this program, you got a little bit more, more care than you did at the actual prison. You went to the doctor twice a month and they put you on WIC. Once the baby was born, we went to an actual hospital and stayed in the hospital for two days because it was just like I was free. But, I knew. They let the family come up to the hospital with you, visit with you. [Read More]

Kamilah Hayes

Child of a formerly incarcerated woman Granddaughter of a formerly incarcerated woman [Read More]

Susan McDougal

Susan McDougal spent time in seven jails and prisons over 22 months for refusing to testify against Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Whitewater investigation. Since her release, McDougal has been speaking publicly about the women she met during that time, arguing for their rights and using her celebrity to draw attention to the growing female prison population in America. AETN interviewed McDougal in May of 2001 about her experiences. [Read More]

This booklet was written by Judge Joyce Williams Warren, Sixth Judicial District Circuit/ Chancery Judge, 10th Division Juvenile Court, Pulaski and Perry Counties.

Funding for the printing was made possible by the Court Improvement Project of the Arkansas Supreme Court, 625 Marshall Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201-1020

October 2000

Juvenile Court is supposed to look out for children so that they can be safe and protected. The court only gets involved when it is necessary.

It can be very frightening and confusing to come to court about your child being abused or neglected. Many parents, guardians, and custodians also feel angry, think that they have been unfairly blamed, and don't want someone telling them how to raise their children.

The purpose of this booklet is to help you understand the court process, your rights and responsibilities, and who are some of the people you may get to know when you are involved in abuse and neglect cases.

Please keep this booklet with you so you can write down the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of some of the people with whom you will need to work. In the back of the booklet are a few blank pages for you to write some notes, if you want to do so.

It is important to remember that this booklet is only intended as a guide, and is not a substitute for an attorney.

Table of Contents

Why Do You Have to go to Court?

When the Juvenile Court has an abuse or neglect case, the purpose of the court is to keep children safe and help families have safe homes for their children. If possible, the Juvenile Judge will allow the children to remain in the home if they can be safe and protected from harm. The Juvenile Judge takes children out of the home when they cannot be safe and protected in the home. Children are not removed from their home to punish their parents, guardians, or custodians.

The Juvenile Judge can order you and your family to get help. The Judge can also order that your child be taken from your custody and placed in the temporary custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). This means that, for the time being, DHS is legally responsible for your child and, with the approval of the Juvenile Judge, can decide where your child should live and what you need to do to have your child returned to you.

If your child is removed from your home, the Juvenile Judge may order you to pay child support. This is because you are still the parent, guardian, or custodian, and you still have a duty to support your child, even if y our child is living outside your home.

It is very important for you to know that the same problems or actions that brought you to Juvenile Court may cause criminal charges to be brought against you, your partner, someone else who lives in your house, someone else in your family who does not live in y our house, or anyone who has harmed your child or put your child in danger. If this happens, you may have to go to talk about the criminal cases, and is only about hearings in Juvenile Court.

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What Happens If Your Child Is Removed From Your Home?

If your child is removed from your home, you will receive a copy of the papers that have been filed with the court. One of the papers is called a Petition for Emergency Custody. The petition was written after DHS received and investigated a report of abuse and/ or neglect concerning your child.

The petition lists you as a defendant. This means you are the parent, guardian, or custodian in a child abuse and neglect case. The child is also listed as a defendant.

An affidavit is attached to the petition. The affidavit contains one or more allegations, which are sworn statements of what is believed to have happened and the reasons that the Department of Human Services believes that your child needs to be in the custody of the Department of Human Services.

When the petition is given to you, it will have a paper called a summons attached to the front of it. The summons tells you the date, time and place where the court hearing will take place, so that you can be present for the hearing. It also tells you about your right to have an attorney represent you, and how to get an attorney if you cannot afford to pay for an attorney.

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Your Rights as a Parent, Guardian, or Custodian

  1. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to pay for an attorney, the court will appoint one for you.
  2. You have the right to admit or deny the allegations made about you and your family.
  3. You have the right to be notified of all court hearings.
  4. You have the right to be present and participate in all court hearings.
  5. You have the right to understand what you need to do so that you can have your child returned to your home, and the right to get help to do these necessary things.
  6. You have the right to talk with your caseworker and your attorney. When you call them, they may be busy with someone else or may be out of the office; so you need to leave a message with a phone number where you can be reached, or you need to try to call them again.
  7. You have the right to look at court files about your case.
  8. You have the right to an interpreter in court if you cannot hear, speak, or understand English.

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Your Responsibilities as a Parent, Guardian, or Custodian

Attend all the court hearings, court ordered services, and meetings. Be on time, or early.

Obey court orders and follow your case plan.

Stay in touch with your attorney and your caseworker. Be sure that they always have a current address and telephone number for you.

Tell your attorney if you have serious problems with your caseworker, or if you have serious problems with any service that is supposed to help you.

Things move very fast in child abuse and neglect cases. Be sure that you know what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, and then make sure you do it. This could make a big difference in whether or not your child is returned to you.

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People Involved in Dependency/ Neglect Proceedings and What They Do

The Judge

The Judge hears all the information presented by the attorneys in court and makes decisions based on that information. It is the Judge's job to decide what is legally right and necessary to protect your child.

The Department of Human Services Attorney

The Attorney for the Department of Human Services brings the case involving your child to the court. It is also this attorney's responsibility to present evidence to the court about any harm or danger to your child.

The Parent, Guardian, or Custodian's Attorney

Your attorney is the person who represents your interests and rights concerning your child. Your attorney should meet with you before every hearing and should be with you in court at every hearing. Your attorney will speak for you in court. Your attorney will help you understand your rights and tell you about the hearings you will attend and what to expect at each hearing. You should keep in contact with your attorney throughout the case so that he or she can answer any of your questions.

Your Child's Attorney (the Attorney and Litem)

The court appoints your child's attorney, who is called an Attorney and Litem. It is the Attorney and Litem's job to meet with your child, talk to your child if your child is old enough, and find out as much information as possible about your child. Your child's attorney should be at all the court hearings. Your child's attorney is supposed to represent your child's best interests and should tell the Court what he or she thinks is best for your child. If your child disagrees with what the Attorney and Litem thinks is best for your child, then the Attorney and Litem must tell the Court what y our child's wishes are- even if the Attorney and Litem does not think it is in your child's best interests.

Caseworker for the Division of Children and Family Services

The Caseworker works with families and children. A Caseworker will be assigned by the Division of Children and Family Services to work with your family. It is the caseworker's job to see that children are kept safe, and appropriate services are provided to you and your children.

Your Caseworker should help you understand the problems that brought you to court, and help you get services to fix those problems. Your caseworker has to make a case plan, which shows all the things that you must do to have your child returned to you. Your Caseworker ahs to give you a copy of the case plan, and should help you work on our case plan.

Your Caseworker's job in court is to give the Judge information about what has been done to help you and your family, what you have done to help your family, where the Caseworker thinks you child should live, and what kind of visits you should have with your child.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

Some children have a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). This person is a trained volunteer appointed by the Judge. The CASA will meet with you, your child and other people who may know your child. It is the CASA's job to get information about your child and report to the Court what he or she thinks is best for your child.

Other People in Court

You will also see other people in the courtroom who help the court work, as it should. These are some of the people you may see and what their jobs are:

The Court Reporter

The Court Reporter records everything that is said in court. The Court Reporter does this by typing on a special machine or speaking into a recording mask. This is called keeping record.

The Case Coordinator

The Case Coordinator sets the date and time of each hearing

A Court Interpreter

A Court Interpreter is a person who helps someone who cannot hear, speak, or understand English. The court provides A Court Interpreter because the interpreter must be trained to do this job.

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Types of Court Hearings

You may have to go to several court hearings during eh dependency/ neglect case so that the Judge can listen to information presented from all the parties and decide what will happen. These are the types of hearings in child abuse and neglect cases:

  • Emergency Hearing
  • Adjudication Hearing (Trial)
  • Disposition Hearing
  • Review Hearing
  • Permanency Planning Hearing
  • Termination of Parental Rights Hearing

This is a chart of the types of hearings and the time frames for when those hearings must be held:

  • Petition Filed= 5 working days
  • Emergency Hearing= 30-50 days
  • Adjudication Hearing= 14 days
  • Disposition Hearing=6 months or less
  • Review Hearing
  • Permanency Planning Hearing = Held no later than 12 months from the date the child was removed from the home. Termination of Parental Rights Hearing= Held no later than 150 days from the date of the Permanency Planning Hearing

Each court hearing has a different purpose. The hearings are described in this booklet so that you will know when each hearing should be held, what to expect at each hearing, and why it is very important for you to be present at each hearing.

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The Emergency Hearing

The Emergency Hearing must be held within five (5) working days from the date of the filing of the order that the Judge signs taking custody from you.

The purpose of the Emergency Hearing is for the Judge to decide whether there is reason to continue the emergency order removing the child from your custody.

At the Emergency Hearing, the Judge will decide whether your child can safely live with you, stay in the temporary custody of the Department of Human Services, or live with someone else until the adjudication hearing (trial) is held. The Judge's decision is based on what is necessary for your child' safety and best interest.

If your child does not return to your home at this hearing, the Judge will make a decision about visitation between you and your child. The Judge may also make decisions about any services that the Department of Human Services will provide to your family.

The attorney for the Department of Human Services will present information about the case to the Judge. You can give information to the Judge at this hearing. If you have an attorney at that hearing, your attorney will also be able to present information. If you don't have an attorney, and cannot afford to hire one, the Judge will appoint an attorney to represent you if you ask.

At the Emergency hearing, the Judge will give you the time and date of the next hearing, which is called the Adjudication hearing.

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Adjudication Hearing (trial)

The Adjudication Hearing is sometimes called a trial. It must be held within thirty (30) days after the Emergency Hearing, unless there is a good reason for having the hearing at a later date. But, the Adjudication hearing cannot be held later than fifty (50) days from the date that the Emergency Hearing was held.

The purpose of the Adjudication hearing is for the Judge to decide if your child has been abused or neglected. At this hearing, the Judge listens to evidence about why the case first came to court.

Witnesses will tell what they know about the facts of the case. Your attorney can ask them questions. Your attorney can have you and any other people you want to tell the Judge about the facts of the case.

After the Judge hears all the witnesses and other information, he or she will decide if your child is dependent/ neglected (abused or neglected). If the Judge decides that your child is not dependent/ neglected, the case will be dismissed, and your child will be returned to your custody and can go home with you.

If the Judge decides that your child is dependent/ neglected, then the Judge will decide what needs to happen to you, your child, and your family so that your child can be returned to you. This decision is called the disposition.

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The Disposition hearing

The Disposition Hearing is usually held at the same time, or immediately after the Adjudication Hearing. If not, the Disposition hearing must be held within fourteen (14) days from the date that the Adjudication Hearing was held.

At the Disposition Hearing, the Judge decides if it is in your child's best interests to stay in the custody of the Department of Human Services, be places in the custody of someone else, or be returned to you.

At this hearing, the Judge will make some orders and approve a case plan for you and your child. These court orders and the case plan require that the Department of Human Services give some services to you, your child and family so that you can keep your child safely in your home or work toward having your child returned to you.

It is very important that you work with the Department of Human Services, and obey the Judge's orders. If you don't do these things, the Judge can hold you in contempt of court, and it could take longer for your child to be returned to you. In fact, if you don't obey the Judge's orders, you could go to jail, and even lose your rights to your child forever.

In order for your child to be returned to you, you must show that you can protect and care for your child.

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The Review Hearing

The first Review hearing must be held within six (6) months from the date your child was taken out of the home. The next Review hearing must be held within six months after the first Review Hearing. The Judge may have the Review hearing sooner if it is needed. You could be ordered to attend more than one Review hearing during the whole time that your case is under the Judge's direction.

The purpose of a Review Hearing is for the Judge to make sure that everyone is obeying the court orders and the case plan, to see how your child is doing in his or her placement, what you are doing to work on the problems that brought the case to court, whether the case plan needs to be changed, whether the case plan needs to be changed, whether the Department of Human Services is giving you, your child and family the right kind of services to make it possible for your child to return to your home, and if it is now safe for you child to return to your home.

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The Permanency Planning Hearing

The Permanency Planning Hearing is a hearing for the Judge to decide on a plan for permanent placement for your child.

The Permanency Planning hearing must be held no later than twelve (12) months from the date your child was removed from the home. But the Judge can decide to hold the Permanency Planning Hearing before that twelve (12) month time period.

At this hearing, the Judge listens to all the information about what has happened since the case first came into court. The Caseworker for the Division of Children and Family Services has to say what he or she thinks is best for your child as far as the permanent plan for placement. Then the Judge has to decide which one of these goals is in your child's best interests for your child's permanent:

  • Return your child to your custody.
  • Continue the goal for your child to be returned to your custody if you are making the right kind of progress and the Judge determines that other things are being done that the law says must be done.
  • Approve a plan for termination of your parental rights (This means your child can be adopted by someone else)
  • Approve a plan to place your child in the permanent custody of someone else
  • Keep your child in foster care for a long time so that your child can learn how to be independent and can take care of himself or herself when grown and out of foster care

If the Judge decides that your child can be returned to you, then the Judge can order your child be returned to you at this hearing or at another specific date.

Depending on what the Judge decides, you may have to come back to court for one or more hearings.

Remember, it is very important for you to be present at every hearing.

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Termination of Parental Rights Hearing

The purpose of a Termination of Parental Rights Hearing is for the Judge to decide whether to end the legal relationship between a parent and child. The court action to terminate parental rights starts with the filing of a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. The Attorney can only file this petition for the Department of Human Services or by the Attorney and Litem (the Child's Attorney).

The Petition to Terminate Parental Rights is usually filed after the Permanency Planning Hearing is held, and the Judge has decided that the child's permanency planning goal shall be adoption. But, it is important to know that the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights can be filed at any time-even before the Permanency Planning hearing is held.

If a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights is filed, you will be given a copy, which will list the reasons that the Attorney for the Department of Human Services or the Attorney and Litem (the Child's Attorney) thinks your parental rights should be terminated. You will also be given information about the time, date and place where the Termination of Parental Rights Hearing will be held.

A Termination of Parental Rights hearing is a very serious hearing, because you could lose your rights to your child forever if the Judge does terminate parental rights. To terminate parental rights, the Judge must have information that is clear and convincing that the legal relationship between parent and child should end.

In a Termination of Parental Rights Hearing, the Judge must decide these things: (1) if a parent is unfit, and (2) if it is in the child's best interests to terminate parental rights.

There are many reasons that the Judge can decide that you are an unfit parent and terminate your parental rights. This does not mean that you are a bad person. You can be found to be an unfit parent because twelve (12) months or less have gone by since the Adjudication Hearing (trial) and even though you have been offered help, you still have not done the things required by your case plan. There are other legal reasons that can cause the Judge to terminate your parental rights.

If the Judge does terminate your parental rights, the legal relationship between you and your child will end. This means that, even though you will always have a blood relationship to your child, you will no longer be a legal parent to your child. This also means that everyone in your family will no longer be legally related to your child. Your child will be free for adoption. You will no longer be able to visit your child, talk to your child, write your child, or get any information about your child. The Department of Human Services-not you-will be responsible for your child and will make decisions about where your child will live and about who can adopt your child.

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You must remember at all times that these court hearings are very important, and that you only have a short amount of time to do what the Court orders so that your child can be safely returned to your home.

This booklet is just a guide to tell you about the Juvenile Court abuse and neglect process, and what your rights and responsibilities are. This booklet should not take the place of an attorney. If you can pay for an attorney, you need to hire an attorney as soon as your child is removed from your custody. If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, the Court will appoint one for you if you ask.

This booklet is just a guide to tell you about the Juvenile Court abuse and neglect process, and what your rights and responsibilities are. This booklet should not take the place of an attorney. If you can pay for an attorney, you need to hire an attorney as soon as your child is removed from your custody. If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, the Court will appoint one for you if you ask.

These are the names and telephone numbers of people with whom you need to keep in contact:

  • Your Attorney
  • Your Caseworker
  • Child's Attorney (Attorney and Litem)
  • CASA Volunteer
  • Case Coordinator

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Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis.


Mothers in Prison National Facts

  • There are now 150,000 women in U. S. prisons and jails. (Sokoloff, Violent Female Offenders in NYS: Myths and Facts, Crime and Justice in NY, A. Karmon, 2000-20001
  • The number of women in prisons and jails is increasing at a faster rate than that of men. Nationally, there are now nearly seven times as many women in prison as in 1980. (U. S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs)
  • By the end of 1996, 859,400 women were under correctional supervision (either in prison, jail, on probation or parole). (U. S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs)
  • 75% of women in prison are mothers. Two-thirds of these women have children under the age of 18. (U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics) 72% of women prisoners with children under 18 lived with those children before entering prison (Child Welfare League of America)
  • 25% of adult women in prison have either given birth at some point during the year prior to their incarceration or are pregnant at the time of their arrest. A survey of state prison warden found that "less than 50% [of their facilities] had written policies specifically relating t medical care for pregnant women [and] only 48% offered prenatal services. Of the facilities in this second category, 21% offered prenatal counseling, 15% offered counseling to help mothers to find suitable placements for their infants after birth and 15% had policies for lighter or no work during pregnancy. " (U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs)
  • Most women who use illegal drugs while pregnant are white, yet in several studies, the vast majority of women either reported or arrested for drug use are women of color. (The Guttmacher Report, 1998)
  • 78% of women in prison report that they have been physically or sexually abused. Someone they knew, in contrast to 3% of men abused 50% of these women. 56% reported that the abuse also included rape.
  • Women who were abused or neglected as children face a 77% higher chance of arrest than a comparison group of women who did not experience abuse or neglect. (U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs)
  • Of those prisoners who commit violent acts, women are two times more likely than men to know the other person involved. (U.S. Department of Justice: National Institute of Justice) In fact, nearly two thirds of the women serving a sentence for a violent crime knew the other person involved in the crime. (U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics) The vast majority of these women were defending themselves or their children from abuse. The average prison time for a woman who kills her spouse/ partner is twice that of a man who kills his spouse/ partner. (Turning the Tide, 1998)
  • Black women are incarcerated at a rate eight times that of a white women. (The Sentencing project)
  • 5.1% of black and Hispanic females are likely to go to prison or jail at least one time during their lifetime, as compared to .5% of white females. (The Sentencing Project)
  • 22.3% of women in prison held no job prior to incarceration. Of those who had jobs, two-thirds reported never receiving more than $6.50 per hour. (Wellisch, Anglin and Prendergast, Journal of Drug Issues 1993)

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Children in Crisis National Facts

  • There are over 6 million children of parents under correctional supervision in the United States. This number includes 2 million children of incarcerated parents. (The Ctr. For Children of Incarcerated Parents)
  • 10 million more children have parents who have been imprisoned some time in their lives. (Fathers in Prison: A Review of the Data, NCFF)
  • Women currently in prison or jail are mothers to more than 250,000 children, the majority of whom are under 18 years of age. (U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs)
  • The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) estimates that conservatively 9% of women in U.S. prisons and jails are pregnant. Given that 150,000 are currently incarcerated, we can assume that at least 13,500 of incarcerated women are currently pregnant.
  • The majority of children separated from their mother because of her incarceration subsequently live with their maternal grandmother. Only 17% of the children stay with their father. The remaining children live with other relatives, friends or in foster care. (National Council on Crime and Delinquency)
  • Many states do not recognize family relations as legitimate foster care and deny them financial support and social services. (National Council on Crime and Delinquency)
  • 60% of imprisoned mothers say they maintain some form of weekly contact with their children. However, fewer than half of imprisoned mothers (46%) report a personal visit with their children since going to prison. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children)
  • Over 60% of mothers in prison are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their children, making visitation difficult, financially prohibitive and often impossible. (National Council on Crime Delinquency)
  • One in five children of incarcerated mothers witnessed their mother's arrest. There are few policies or protocols in place to ensure that children's needs are met. Law enforcement offers pay little attention to the needs of the arrestee's children. (Child Welfare League of America, Children with Incarcerated parents: An Overview of the Statistics)
  • Children of incarcerated parents are never treated as victims despite the fact that their mother's or father's arrest could be the latest in a long series of traumatic episodes. (Nat'l Institute of Justice, Marilyn Moses)
  • Children of incarcerated parents are at increased risk of anxiety, depression, aggression, truancy, attention disorders and poor scholastic performance. (National Institute of Justice)
  • Nationally, foster care for a prisoner's child costs and average of $20,000 per year, adding to the cost of incarcerating their caregivers.
  • Mothers in prison can literally lose their children n the foster care system as the child is shifted from family to family. The Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1996 seeks permanent placement for children who are in foster care 15 months in a period of 22 months.

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Alternatives Work

  • Alternatives to incarceration have been legislatively endorsed for more than 20 years.
  • The understanding that guided the early movement towards alternatives was that penal institutions are destructive to the humanity of prisoners, guards, and administrators and the community. Thus, alternatives were designed to keep people out of jail and prison.
  • Alternatives have been underfunded and underutilized. Moreover, alternatives have become "add-ons" to increase punishment of the offender. For example, a period of jail time may be followed by probation, accompanied by mandatory community service, restitution to the victim, plus a condition of drug treatment while on probation. Thus for alternatives have been added to a jail sentence and not kept the person out of jail.
  • Alternatives work! They are cost-effective, enforceable and significantly reduce recidivism. Alternatives can be used at any point in the criminal justice process: alternatives to pretrial confinement; alternatives to prosecution; sentencing alternatives; post-confinement alternatives
    • Community service orders
    • Restitution
    • Employee assistance/ job development
    • Third- party advocacy
    • Alcohol and drug treatment
    • Mental and other health services
  • The RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center found that treatment is a useful tool for fighting substance abuse. In fact, the study concluded that treatment is 15 times more effective at reducing serious crime than mandatory minimum sentencing. In addition, drug treatment programs increase an individual's ability to hold a job. (The Correctional Association)
  • A recent U.S. poll indicated that 57% of the adult population favored treatment over incarceration. 75% of those surveyed supported allocating more money for treatment. (Substance Abuse: The Nation's Number One Health Problem prepared by Brandies University)
  • According to a recent Zogby International poll: 74% of the public chose treatment over jail or prison for those convicted of drug possession.
  • Prison should only be used for the most violent and dangerous citizens in the community. Too often, jails and prisons are our community's first response to complicated social problems like addiction and poverty. Alternatives to incarceration provide creative responses that address the real needs of individual and communities

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1. How many incarcerated mothers in Arkansas have minor children?

There are approximately 1000 women imprisoned in our state system of corrections. 900 have minor children with 3 children per mother. This means we have 2700 children with mothers in our state prison. This does not include the children of mothers serving time in jails in our state, nor does it include the mothers who are on bail or under parole or probation status.

2. What kind of services are available for relatives caring for other relatives' children who are imprisoned?

There is cash assistance at a rate of $82 for the first child and $41 for all of the subsequent children, meaning $1.69 per day for those typical three children. The caregiver families may also qualify for Medicaid, and, if the household income is low enough, they may qualify for Food Stamps. There is no guardianship subsidy in our state. Yet, the state foster care system will pay strangers and relatives who meet the foster care standards, and the stipend can be as much as $500 per child with an array of services including transportation, etc.

3. What are the most common crimes that women commit?

Non-violent, usually Theft, Fraud, or Possession of drugs with intent to sell. Typically, women commit crimes of economics related to survival and their addiction illness.

4. Do the children want to visit their mothers in prison?

In most cases, the children want to very much. It is usually the mother or the caregiver who decides it is not in the children's best interests. Most children are very anxious about how their mothers are being treated, and they miss them greatly. The frequency of visits allows the children to maintain a relationship with their mothers.

5. How often do mothers and children have visits?

Less than half of the mothers receive any sort of visit from their children.

6. What about children with fathers in prison? Is it the same?

Children of incarcerated fathers are usually left behind with their mothers. Their lives are not as disrupted by moving to a new household or separated from their brothers and sisters. Visits with their father usually depend on the relationship between mothers and fathers. Most dads in prison did not live with their children at the time of their incarceration.

7. Why are these children so vulnerable to getting into the criminal justice system?

We are just now learning more about this. Many groups are studying the possible explanations. The most promising hypothesis is that the children are traumatized by the violence they have seen in their homes and communities, substance abuse in their homes, underprotection from their addicted parent, the trauma of witnessing their mother's arrest, then her absence, and we all know how traumatizing that can be for a child at any age.

8. How can we help break this cycle of incarceration?

There are many ways and many new strategies. Communities have to open their hearts and minds to these children. Talk with them, mentor them, help a grandmother transport her grandchildren to needed services, develop support groups in your religious organization, write letters to your elected officials and policy makers, BE THERE!

9. Is this really related to my life?

Yes, it is. The dollars being spent on incarceration can be better used for prevention and alternatives to incarceration. We need more community-based supervision possibilities for these mothers, that will allow them to stay with their children or at least in the communities where their children live. Most mothers in prison will be home with their children in a fairly brief time, eighteen months or so. Repairing the damage of the loss of a mother is not easily done and leaves wounds for the children that can only be healed with helping the children process these feelings of fear, abandonment, anger, and grief.

10. What is going to happen to these children?

WE will see them in our prisons and juvenile detention, undereducated, depressed, addicted, and feeling themselves to be of no worth or value.WE must begin to serve them and their families, rather than allowing the worst to happen.

Last Updated 05 Jan 2017