Grant Application Entries
Kentucky Youth Advocates
10200 Linn Station Road, Suite 310
Louisville, Kentucky 40223
Chief Policy Officer
Addressing Trauma in Children with Incarcerated Parents with Practical Information for Parents and Caregivers
For years, Kentucky has had the unfortunate distinction of having some of the highest rates of parental incarceration. The latest data show an estimated 12% of all Kentucky children have experienced parental incarceration, and children in every one of Kentucky’s 120 counties were impacted by parental incarceration in 2019. Kentucky also is among the states with the highest percentage of children living with someone other than a biological parent, and many relatives take over caregiving of children when their parent is incarcerated. Kentucky also faces high rates of child abuse and neglect, which can also be impacted by parental incarceration. Having a parent return home without sufficient supports in place can be a risk factor for child abuse.
Having an incarcerated parent or experiencing abuse and neglect is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) and can have lasting impacts on children’s health and opportunities if not appropriately addressed. While national resources exist with good information to support children while a parent is incarcerated and as they return home, existing materials don’t inform of Kentucky-specific resources nor do they address challenges often seen in Kentucky, such as navigating the relationship between kinship caregivers and the incarcerated parent or addressing risk factors at re-entry. In addition, many Kentucky families do not even receive information from national sources, let alone tailored resources related to the needs of caregivers, as well as the incarcerated parent. We know that having relevant information on how to support children and young people – as a kinship caregiver, the custodial parent, or as an incarcerated parent seeking to maintain a positive and healthy relationship with their children – is critical to helping children successfully navigate the trauma associated with parental incarceration. Moreover, knowing how and where to access supports for children, kinship caregivers, and parents as they navigate reentry to their home or community can continue to support the parent/child relationship and in turn act as a protective factor against abuse or neglect.
The following is a description of the proposed informational resources and the anticipated benefits:
1. Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) will host at least 2 virtual focus groups, conduct interviews, and distribute a survey with kinship and fictive kin caregivers, people who experienced incarceration as a parent, other impacted persons, advocates, and stakeholders to ascertain the unique needs of this population and inform the development of an informational resource guide. To ensure information is addressing the needs of families equitably, emphasis will be placed on securing diverse participants in terms of region in Kentucky, race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status.
2. Using information and input gathered from stakeholders, national and local research, and data, KYA will develop brief, engaging informational guides (see attachment for an example of a publication geared towards parents from a child abuse prevention project) related to how caregivers, custodial parents and incarcerated parents can support children when a parent is incarcerated. The guides will include information intended to support the needs of children across age groups at the onset, during, and after incarceration; provide caregivers with tangible information and action items to ensure they are supported and can provide support to the children; and give incarcerated parents encouragement and information needed to maintain a healthy relationship with their child(ren) while they are away. Action items will focus on specific steps caregivers and parents can take, with suggestions that can be acted upon within Kentucky’s existing range of community services and supports.
3. Upon competition of the guides, KYA will engage with stakeholders, including jailers and appropriate county jail staff, Department of Corrections staff, re-entry service providers, and kinship caregiver networks to disseminate the guides widely. We will also use earned media opportunities and social media to educate the public about the availability of the guides. The benefits of this component of the work include the ability to reach inmates who may not have access to other services in small jails and the potential for broad reach throughout Kentucky, based on the networks we will engage.
Kentucky Youth Advocates will begin work on this project with targeted engagement with people experiencing - or those who have experienced - incarceration as a parent or caring for a child of an incarcerated parent. Funds will be used for staff time to plan, conduct, and analyze results from focus groups and interviews with parents and caregivers about their experience, the challenges they faced, and what information would have been helpful to know when a parent is first incarcerated. Additionally, staff time will be used to develop, disseminate and analyze results of a survey that will be distributed to impacted communities as well as to providers that serve impacted communities, such as those providing reentry services. After development of a first draft of the guides, we will reconnect with individuals who were willing to review and provide feedback on draft documents. Finally, for those who indicate they are willing to respond to a follow-up survey, we will ask for feedback after the guides have been completed and released.
• Start date and timeline for initial engagement: October 1, 2020 – November 30, 2020
• Start date and timeline for obtaining feedback: January 5, 2021 – February 28, 2021
After gathering insight from those experiencing impacts of parental incarceration and service providers, Kentucky Youth Advocates, funds will be used for staff time to conduct further research on best practices to address issue areas that emerge from the focus groups, interviews and surveys. Staff time will also be used to draft, edit, and review three guides – one tailored for parents who are incarcerated focused on supporting their child and maintaining or building a healthy relationship and the other two tailored for kinship caregivers and custodial parents with a focus on supporting the child(ren) in their care as they deal with the traumatic experience of having a parent incarcerated. After complete drafts are prepared, staff time will be used for additional editing after feedback is received from parents, caregivers, and providers.
• Start date and timeline for research, writing, and editing: November 15, 2020 – March 30, 2021
Kentucky Youth Advocates will use $3,000 in Foundation funds to contract with a graphic designer to ensure the guides are visually engaging and will appeal to the targeted populations. After completion of the design process, $1,200 in Foundation funds will be used to print 15,000 copies of the guides. Funds will also be used for staff time to coordinate the design, review, and printing of the guides.
• Start date and timeline for designing and reviewing product: March 15, 2021 – April 2, 2021
The final phase of the project will be a coordinated campaign to widely disseminate the guides throughout Kentucky. Staff time will be used to connect with partners and local leaders who can help distribute the publication, including local jailers, the Department of Corrections, service providers, and the Kinship Families Coalition. Staff time will also be used to post the guides to our website, announce the publication of the guides with a media release, promote the guides on social media and our blog, and to prepare packages of guides to mail. Hard costs include mailing expenses at $1,000.
• Start date and timeline for dissemination of the guides: April 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021
The budget also includes funds to cover overhead expenses, including general operating support staff costs, occupancy related costs, printer lease and maintenance, telephone and internet, business insurance, professional fees, the use of communication and marketing platforms, office supplies, and information technology expenses. Kentucky Youth Advocates uses the direct allocation method to charge expenses to program service areas. Specific operating expenses are charged directly to program service areas as applicable, and staff costs are charged directly to program service areas based on allocations from staff timesheets.
Kentucky Youth Advocates intentionally focuses efforts on populations of children who often do not have equitable opportunities to thrive, though our policy work often has impact for all of Kentucky’s one million children. Our work covers the entire state of Kentucky, including urban areas such as Louisville and Lexington, as well as mid-size and rural communities.
Populations on which we focus include:
• children in low-income families, representing 47% of all Kentucky children and at least 2 in 3 children who are Black or Hispanic;
• children of color who often experience disproportionate negative outcomes, representing 22% of Kentucky children;
• children from rural parts of the state, where poverty rates are highest;
• children who have experienced abuse or neglect, including more than 24,000 children in 2018; and
• children impacted by the juvenile justice system (more than 18,000 children in 2018) or ever impacted by parental incarceration (more than 117,000 children in 2017-18).
17 paid staff
12 volunteer board members
Kentucky Youth Advocates is a trusted, independent voice for kids. Our primary goal is to make Kentucky a place where all children have opportunities to achieve their full potential, with a special emphasis on ensuring opportunity for youth of color, children from rural and urban areas impacted by poverty, and children who have experienced trauma. Related to our primary goal, we seek to improve outcomes in the arenas of economic security, education, health, justice, and safety while using a holistic approach that keeps kids in the center.
Kentucky Youth Advocates pursues the following objectives to achieve our goals:
• Improve systems and policies for Kentucky children and families through our advocacy for legislative and administrative policy change;
• Advocate for research-based solutions by synthesizing data and research, informed by our assistance to individual children and families and our partners who provide direct services.
• Educate decision makers so that they implement policies and practices and invest in programs that keep kids and families healthy, safe and secure;
• Engage youth and families who are directly impacted by policies to inform our work and support their leadership in securing policy and practice change; and
• Utilize effective strategies to strengthen the impact of our work with children and families, such as strategic communications and convening partner organizations to harness the collective strength of child-serving agencies.
This proposed project implements the Foundation’s purpose of improving standards of living and opportunity for children who experience parental incarceration, utilizing a method to reach people impacted in Kentucky’s rural communities, as well as towns and cities. More than one in ten Kentucky children has experienced parental incarceration at some point, which qualifies as an adverse childhood experience. Additionally, nearly 100,000 children in Kentucky live with someone other than a biological parent, and a sizeable number of those living situations is due to parental incarceration. The combination of these challenges underscores the importance of equipping caregivers and parents with the tools necessary to navigate the difficulties presented is critical to the continued healthy development of their child(ren) and to strengthening relationships.
Through our work on the Face It Movement, a campaign to end child abuse, we know that supporting parents when they return home can keep children safe. The changes and adjustments that come with release from incarceration can be a source of great stress to parents, which can put children at risk of abuse, if parents and caregivers are not prepared for effectively managing that transition.
As the rates of parental incarceration and access to, or availability of, community-based resources vary greatly by region, the need for equitable access to reliable information is crucial. Many Kentucky counties lack any specific services or programs for children of incarcerated parents, and where services exist, they often can’t serve all children who would benefit. This project will provide tailored information that people can utilize and implement no matter the county where they live, reaching children and families that are not being reached by existing programs.
For the parent who is incarcerated, access to programming or information specific to their needs as a parent is significantly more limited in county jails and heavily dependent on the length of their sentence. Creation and dissemination of a document tailored to incarcerated parents that can be utilized independently can begin to help incarcerated parents better understand how to help their child through the challenge and disruption of having a parent incarcerated.
As children’s advocates, we have been seeking policy change to reduce the impact of incarceration on children since we helped the Annie E. Casey Foundation release an issue brief on the topic as one of their state KIDS COUNT grantees. While the legislature has continued to consider changes to state law to reduce incarceration, attempts at comprehensive reform have fallen short, and even focused, limited bills have been difficult for the legislature to pass. While policy change continues to fall short, children continue to be impacted each year, and this project seeks a new approach to addressing the trauma of parental incarceration that so many children face each year. We know that while some parents incarcerated in state prisons have access to parenting programs, resources and supports for incarcerated parents in county jails are especially limited. Additionally, Kentucky Youth Advocates helped found and continues to help manage the Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky, a statewide coalition to support kinship caregivers. We continue to hear from caregivers and regional coalitions about the ongoing need for resources and support for this population.
There are local entities – non-profits, colleges, coalitions, and community-based organizations – that work with incarcerated parents, their children and/or kinship caregivers in a variety of capacities or identify those populations as an area of focus. For example, one Jefferson County-based nonprofit organization centers its work on supporting incarcerated mothers through the child-placing process, while another organization seeks to create a trauma-informed environment for children during jail visits. A number of other entities offer mentoring or other services to a limited number of children who are directly impacted.
KYA is unique in its whole-child approach to advocacy, focusing on justice, child welfare, kinship, education, health and all the intersections in between. Our work is driven by research and data, and we are skilled conveners and connectors to appropriate resources and fellow advocates. Though we provide very limited direct services, we value the knowledge of people directly impacted by a variety of issues and engage with them in the development of solutions. Moreover, the relationships we’ve developed with stakeholders and decisionmakers statewide are often leveraged to effect systems and/or practice changes.
Related to this project, our proposal will fulfill a unique need by creating a resource that can be utilized by parents and caregivers in every Kentucky county. It will also take a multi-faceted approach that involves the incarcerated parent, custodial parent, and the caregiver collectively in addressing the needs of the child. We will utilize our relationships with state decisionmakers on this project to engage with the Department of Corrections leaders and with the association for local jailers to disseminate the resource guides.
As an advocacy organization, Kentucky Youth Advocates must be agile and responsive to the political and social environment around us in order to identify and maximize opportunities to advance our work for kids. This means that we continuously evaluate our efforts to determine what impact we are having, identify lessons learned, and adjust our strategies accordingly. Ultimate success with this proposal would mean that parents and caregivers of children who have a parent incarcerated effectively support their child(ren) and are able to access services as needed to help their child(ren) deal with the trauma of the experience. While we will not be able to conduct a full evaluation, we will seek feedback from parents and caregivers with whom we engage throughout the grant period.
In order to assess whether we achieve the short-term outcomes outlined in this proposal, we will collect data on the following measures:
• Number of kinship caregivers involved in input, review, and feedback for guides
• Number of parents and formerly incarcerated parents involved in input, review, and feedback for guides;
• Number of kinship caregivers who are notified about resource guide via listserv or email distribution lists;
• Number of kinship coalition leaders who agree to share resource guide with their networks;
• Number of jailers who agree to disseminate materials to inmates;
• Number of guides that jailers agree to distribute;
• Number of guides that re-entry coordinators with the Department of Corrections agree to distribute;
• Number of guides that service providers serving incarcerated parents agree to distribute;
• Number of print resource guides disseminated to agencies, coalitions, and jails; and
• Number of downloads from our website.
Kentucky Youth Advocates has a number of methods for ensuring that the guides created will continue to be available to parents and caregivers. First, we will continue to make the documents available on our website to allow for continued access. Second, our role with the Kinship Caregivers Coalition will continue beyond this grant, allowing us to continue reaching one of the target audiences. Finally, many of the action steps that will be suggested in the guide, such as accessing counseling for the child, can continue beyond the grant period by accessing services from providers available in the local community.
Kentucky Youth Advocates does not charge fees for services provided to children and families. For services provided under contract, we will charge a fee based on the work involved.