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 Children of Incarcerated Parents (CHIPS)

It is estimated that there are more than 12,000 children of incarcerated parents living in Onondaga County; over 20% are children of incarcerated mothers. The loss of a parental figure, especially the mother, has profound effects on children and adolescents. Children retain bonds and love for parents regardless of the label attached to him/her by society. For adolescents, parental incarceration has been associated with poor academic achievement, involvement in delinquency and gang-related activities, violence and eventually adult criminal behavior. Many of these children see no chance of having their lives follow paths which are any different than those of their parents.

One study estimated that children with imprisoned parents are nearly six times more likely than their counterparts to become criminally involved and incarcerated at some point in their future. Presently, there are no local services for these children. School personnel, human service providers and others are largely unaware of the needs of these children and how to address them.

After CCA's Youth Services staff worked with increasing numbers of children of incarcerated parents and gained experience with their needs, CCA developed one of the first programs in U.S. to meet these needs and to prevent the cycle of incarceration from extending to the next generation.

In collaboration with the Syracuse City School District, CCA offers mentoring and support groups for children of incarcerated parents to the students in the alternative schools. Thesupport groups are available to youth who already participate in CCA youth programs and other youth identified through school counselors.

The groups meet weekly and cover issues of isolation, self-esteem and shame, making positive choices, goal setting, self-reliance, developing support systems, substance abuse, the corrections system (visitation, contact, parole, release) and legal issues.

CCA offers training and a manual (available this Fall) for working with children of incarcerated parents. In addition, CCA's Resource List of Titles for use with young children, teens and people who work with youth can be downloaded.