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Enhancing Jail Visits Through Interdisciplinary Interventions
May 14, 2018

In the United States today, roughly 1 in 25 children has a parent behind bars. Millions of children visit their mother and father in prison each year. Understanding that parent-child visits have the potential to lead to increased behavior problems and anxiety in children, an interdisciplinary team of faculty is setting out to change that. They hope to provide valuable insight that will help provide benefits to children’s well-being through parent-child visits utilizing technology.

Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, Dorothy A. O’Brien Professor of Human Ecology, along with faculty from five departments across campus, have received highly competitive funding from UW2020 for their project, “Improving Outcomes for Incarcerated Parents and their Children through Enhanced Jail Visits.”

The researchers have been awarded more than $340,000 over two years to explore transformative change focused on parent-child interactions, and ultimately the lifelong impact on children with incarcerated mothers and fathers.

“This research is important because there are more than 5 million U.S. children age 14 and younger who have experienced a parent leaving to go to jail or prison, with huge racial and economic disparities,” stated Poehlmann-Tynan. “I’m really enthusiastic about working with our interdisciplinary team. Each person brings their own expertise, ideas, creativity, and energy to the project, which is exciting.”

“This research is important because there are more than 5 million U.S. children age 14 and younger who have experienced a parent leaving to go to jail or prison, with huge racial and economic disparities.”

Professor Julie Poehlmann-Tynan

Co-Investigator, Assistant Professor and Family Living Specialist for Vulnerable and Underserved Young Children, Margaret Kerr, added, “Partnering with colleagues across campus in areas of sociology, social work, consumer sciences, and design studies allows us the ability to approach an intervention from many different angles, with the potential to have an even greater impact on these families than any of us could have alone.”

“Research has shown that jail visits can increase behavior problems and anxiety in children,” added Assistant Professor Pajarita Charles. “Our hope with this project is to improve the experience of child and family visits. This is an important way that children and parents maintain their relationship during incarceration and is linked to lower rates of recidivism.”

The goal of UW2020 is to stimulate and support cutting edge, highly innovative and groundbreaking research at UW–Madison. This project was selected from more than 110 submissions. Projects like this are difficult to receive initial funding due to the unique interdisciplinary and innovative nature of the research. Innovation is what is needed, however, for research such as this, involving vulnerable youth and their families. The initiative allows creative minds working together to foster and create change where there is a strong need for it. The UW2020 program is making it possible for. The researchers hope this initial funding will allow for additional projects in the future to continue this important work.

Learn more about the newest round of UW2020 projects here.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR Julie Poehlmann-Tynan Professor of Human Ecology, and Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Center for Child and Family Well-being, and the Center for Healthy Minds

CO-INVESTIGATOR Michael Massoglia, Professor of Sociology

Co-Investigators Pajarita Charles, Assistant Professor, Social Work Karen Holden, Professor Emerita, Consumer Science Margaret Kerr, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies Lesley Sager, Faculty Associate, Design Studies

Originally published by the School of Human Ecology by Dan T. Dick, Advancement and Communications

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