|Posted:||December 17, 2020 08:56 AM|
|From:||Representative Rick Krajewski|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Protecting the Rights of Children and Incarcerated Parents|
|In December 2011, the Joint State Government Commission published a report titled: "The Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Needs and Responsive Services." . This report lays bare what many of us with loved ones impacted by the justice system already know – that incarceration has a traumatic impact on a family, for both the child and the parent. The report included shocking statistics on parental incarceration; almost 2 million children have an incarcerated parent, over 60% of women held in prisons and jails have a minor child, and Black children are 7.5 times more likely than white children to have an incarcerated parent.
These numbers have surely increased in the last decade, yet we have still not instituted legislation to help preserve the emotional and mental well-being of our young ones.
As someone with a stepfather who was incarcerated, I understand firsthand how this experience can affect a family. The uncertainty of when you will see them again, the emotional impact on loved ones, the financial setbacks to a family, and the damage done through the unnecessary severance of a child’s connection to their parent are all hardships no one should face yet so many in our Commonwealth suffer through daily. That is why I am urging us to pick back up this effort to implement the recommendations outlined in this report. While the advisory committee made many recommendations in its report, three of them involve legislative changes. This legislation enacts the advisory committee's legislative recommendations.
Previously introduced as HB 664, per the recommendations of the Committee, this legislation amends the Domestic Relations Code to ensure that parental incarceration is not the sole basis on which a decision for involuntary termination of parental rights is made, adding to existing exclusions such as environmental factors and medical care if found to be beyond the control of the parent.
Additionally, this legislation gives the court the authority when determining whether the rights of an incarcerated parent should be terminated to consider if the parent is making an effort, to the extent feasible, to comply with the family service plan requirements and otherwise maintaining a meaningful role in the child's life during the time of incarceration.
Finally, based on the advisory committee’s recommendation, this bill provides for the training of law enforcement officers to ensure child safety upon the arrest of a parent or guardian, establishes guidelines for the identification of minor or dependent children upon arrest, and gives the Pennsylvania State Police and Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission the responsibility to develop and maintain arrest protocol training programs for people with minor or dependent children.
I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this vital piece of legislation to better protect and care for the children of incarcerated parents
Introduced as HB1038