More than two million American children have a parent who is in jail or prison. Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail, has housed over 14,000 people, the majority of them parents.
In 2012, the Social Service Board launched its Supportive Televisiting Services (STS) Program. Its mission is to help heal families by providing opportunities for children to maintain contact with their incarcerated parents. Televisiting benefits the community as well as the families it serves.
Over its seven years of operation, STS has served hundreds of families, restoring and maintaining the parent-child bond, helping to reduce separation trauma that impacts children behaviorally and emotionally, and contributing to a more successful re-entry for the parents at the end of their terms.
Benefits to families: Research has proven that regular visiting works to prevent or reduce behavioral, emotional, and school problems for children of incarcerated parents. Through televisiting, a child experiences less separation trauma, and parents are able to preserve a secure attachment with the child. Opportunities to interact with a parent, to read, play games, create art, and celebrate special milestones reassure and comfort children during separation.
Benefits to the community: STS provides training in parenting, anger management, and mock job interviews. Skills developed in these areas reduce recidivism and enhance the likelihood that incarcerated parents will return to their families and build productive lives after their prison terms end.
Benefits to Professionals: STS offers cultural competence and telemedicine training to empower service agencies and communities to foster strong connections and ensure that children and families have the best chance for positive outcomes.
Televisiting services are provided free of charge to client families and facilities, supported by funding or in-kind donations from our collaborators, including the New York City Council, the New York Society for Ethical Culture (NYSEC), the Social Service Board (SSB), Fordham University’s Be the Evidence Project, the Jericho Task Force, and Cisco Systems.
Opportunities exist for graduate social work internships and volunteer positions with the program.