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Improving Outcomes for Incarcerated Parents and their Children through Enhanced Jail Visits

Center faculty member Julie Poehlmann-Tynan and faculty from five departments across campus have received highly competitive funding from an initiative at UW–Madison called UW2020. 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 project will develop an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to bring about transformative change in the lives of incarcerated mothers and fathers, at-home caregivers and children through enhanced visits. 

Although family visits in jail are a key opportunity to maintain parent-child relationships and decrease recidivism for incarcerated individuals, several studies have linked children’s visits to jails with elevated child behavior problems and anxiety. Low-income children of color are disproportionately affected by parental incarceration.

The short-term innovation is to develop and examine the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of a multi-level intervention strategy to improve family visits between children and a parent who has been incarcerated in the Dane County Jail in Wisconsin.  

The intervention will focus on fostering positive family interactions through coaching during jail and home visits, creating family-friendly and child-appropriate spaces for jail visits, and promoting other correctional systems and facility-level changes that support child-parent contact such as offering in-home visits via laptops. The long-term goal is to evaluate a well-designed intervention to improve behavioral outcomes and family relationships for children with incarcerated parents as well as reduce recidivism for incarcerated fathers and mothers.

People Working on This Study

Julie Poehlmann
Julie Poehlmann
Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Healthy Minds, Dorothy A. O’Brien Professor in Human Ecology, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Media Related to this Project

How a Muppet Can Help Kids of Incarcerated Parents
Jul 02, 2020
Faculty member Julie Poehlmann-Tynan talks about educational materials created with Sesame Street to help kids and families of Incarcerated Parents.
Parental guidance - Dane County hopes to help inmates be better parents
Jul 11, 2019
Faculty member Julie Poehlmann-Tynan discusses the complications that families face when a parent is incarcerated and the impacts on a child's development
Cycles of Incarceration Hit African Americans, Children Especially Hard
Jul 14, 2018
Citing the research of Center faculty Julie Poelhmann-Tynan, this article explores the impact of incarceration on children and families, as well as the racial disparities of incarceration rates in Wisconsin.
Left Behind: Who Looks Out for Children when Their Parents Go to Prison?
Jan 25, 2018
Center faculty member discusses her groundbreaking research investigating how incarceration affects children.

Related Publications

Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2015). Children’s contact with incarcerated parents: Summary and recommendations. In Children’s contact with incarcerated parents (pp. 83-92). Springer International Publishing. (Book) doi:10.1007/978-3-319-16625-4_2
Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Burnson, C., Runion, H., & Weymouth, L. A. (2017). Attachment in young children with incarcerated fathers. Development and Psychopathology, 29(2), 389-404. doi:10.1017/S0954579417000062
Wildeman, C., Haskins, A.R., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (Eds.). (2018). When parents are incarcerated: Interdisciplinary research and interventions to support children. Urie Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. (Book).
Hindt, L. A., Davis, L., Schubert, E. C., Poehlmann-Tynan, J., & Shlafer, R. J. (2016). Comparing emotion recognition skills among children with and without jailed parents. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1095. doi:10.3
Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Runion H., Burnson C., Maleck S., Weymouth L., Pettit K., & Huser, M. (2015). Young children’s behavioral and emotional reactions to plexiglas and video visits with jailed parents. New York: SpringerBriefs (Book)
Muentner, L., Holder, N., Burnson, C., Runion, H., Weymouth, L., & Poehlmann-Tynan, J. (2019). Jailed parents and their young children: Residential instability, homelessness, and behavior problems. Journal of Child and Family Studies28(2), 370-386.
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