Supporting Children of Incarcerated Parents

A multi-year project supported by the Vancouver Foundation

Considering the Best Interests of the Child in Sentencing and Other Decisions Concerning Parents Facing Criminal Sanctions

Children whose parents come into conflict with the law, and particularly those whose parents are incarcerated, experience tremendous stress and disruption in their lives that can affect their development and social adaptation. There is current momentum in British Columbia favouring reduction in short-term incarceration, particularly of Indigenous offenders, and implementing community-based alternatives that promote public safety and the successful reintegration of offenders. The primary objective of the project is to mitigate the negative impact on the child of a parental incarceration, including through the promotion of community-based alternatives wherever appropriate. This system-change project will instigate and support a systemic and cultural change in the way that the best interests of the child is considered by defence counsel, prosecutors and the criminal courts, when making decisions about parents so as to mitigate the negative impact of these decisions on the child. The project also recognizes that many stakeholders, inside and outside of the justice system, have a responsibility to mitigate the negative impact on children of parents facing criminal sanctions. In support of this initiative, ICCLR will work in partnership with Legal Aid BC, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry), the School of Criminology University of Fraser Valley, the Canadian and International Coalitions for Children of Incarcerated Parents and the Representative of Children and Youth of BC to develop and implement positive family-focused outcomes and community-based alternatives for justice-involved parent(s)/legal guardian(s) over the three-year period of this project.

The toolkit will be based on the practical measures and strategies articulated in ICCLR’s Framework for Action to Enhance the Protective Environment for Children of Incarcerated Parents. The project is based on ICCLR’s and its partners prior work in this area including: community mobilization projects in three communities in British Columbia; convening focus groups involving provincial court judges; the publication of a community guide on how to support children of incarcerated parents (Supporting Children with Incarcerated Parents: A Free Community Guide); the submission of a policy brief for the Department of Justice Canada; the conduct of a focus group discussion with provincial court judges in British Columbia; and, the publication of an article on “The Best Interests of the Child and the Sentencing of Offenders with Parental Responsibilities”. Serving as a knowledge hub, this page provides an opportunity to highlight some of the projects and publications that ICCLR Associates have completed to date in this area as well as future publications in support of this initiative.