Keeping Parents and Children Connected
For the past nine years, The Women’s Treatment Center has been providing vital support through its PACT program to Chicago-area children whose mothers are incarcerated at the Decatur Correctional Center. This innovative program – the only one of its kind in Illinois – helps reduce the impact of maternal incarceration.
Children come from across Cook County, but primarily Chicago, to participate in PACT activities. Children range in age from less than 1 year through 18 years of age.
The program’s main goals are to 1) stabilize families and the home environment by sustaining the connection between at-risk youth and their incarcerated mother and by providing case management/support services to caregivers, and 2) improve the cognitive and social abilities of youth at risk because of parental incarceration and other factors through support services.
These goals are accomplished through a multi-dimensional approach that includes:
- A two-way video teleconferencing system located at TWTC and in the Decatur prison that allows youth to “visit” with their incarcerated mother, thereby maintaining that important bond. The majority of the caregivers are not able to travel the 180 miles to the Decatur Correctional Center, which means that the PACT program is the only way these children are able to talk to and maintain a visual relationship with their mothers.
The video teleconferencing system is available to families eight hours a day, six days a week. Families may schedule up to two visits per week, depending on availability and demand for services.
- Support groups and activities for youth that build skills for coping with the effects of parental incarceration. TWTC staff transport youth from their homes to TWTC for bi-weekly Saturday Alateen meetings, led by volunteers, and for activities from the “Supportive Education for Children of Addicted Parents” curriculum.
Through onsite activities and supervised field trips, children develop practical skills to avoid gang involvement and illegal substance usage and to improve their physical and emotional health.
- Support services for caregivers, including linkages to community-based health, mental health and social service resources. Case management services help stabilize the family and support the caregiver. About half of the families receive case management services.
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