Who we are
The San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (SFCIPP) is a coalition of social service providers, representatives of government bodies, advocates and others who work with or are concerned about children of incarcerated parents and their families.
Formed in 2000 under the auspices of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, SFCIPP works to improve the lives of children of incarcerated parents, and to increase awareness of these children, their needs and their strengths.
After studying the issues affecting these children and their families, SFCIPP members agreed that a children’s perspective was the logical framework from which all future work should evolve. We understand that children’s rights and needs may sometimes conflict with, and must be balanced against, institutional concerns and requirements, but believe it is essential to start from the child’s perspective and work on what is possible from there.
The bill of rights above is derived from the experience of Gretchen Newby, executive director of Friends Outside—who drafted the original bill of rights on which this one is based—in working with families affected by incarceration, and from interviews conducted by journalist Nell Bernstein with over 30 young people who have experienced parental incarceration (the names of those interviewed have been changed). It also relies on the research and conclusions of Charlene Simmons of the California Research Bureau and Peter Breen of the Child Welfare League of America, and derives in great part from the ongoing conversation that has been taking place among SFCIPP members with the generous support of the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, Cassie Pierson, and Ellen Walker provided editorial guidance.
What Is It?
What is the Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents?
In 2005, SFCIPP launched the Rights to Realities Initiative, with the long-term goal that every child in San Francisco whose parent was arrested and/or incarcerated would be guaranteed the rights articulated in the Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights. The group understood from its initial research that this goal was ambitious, requiring both system change and a transformation in public attitudes. SFCIPP developed a work plan that recognized the need for the work to evolve as it went, and to continue over an extended period of time.
Do They Work?
Are these real rights? Do people have them?
SFCIPP utilizes the Bill of Rights to organize and guide its efforts toward systematic changes across the spectrum of children’s experiences, from a parent’s arrest all the way through their return to the community. As the work has evolved, particular areas of both need and opportunity have emerged. These include keeping children safe and informed at the time of arrest, supporting them during their parent’s incarceration and after release, and maintaining strong parent-child relations. Over the past ten years, with the Bill of Rights as a foundation, more efforts and initiatives have emerged. The Bill of Rights exists because we recognize that many times, they are not honored, and the work SFCIPP does is intended to change that. However, these rights are not recognized in a court of law.
AGENDA FOR ACTION
FROM RIGHTS TO REALITIES
Since the Bill of Rights was first published in 2003, it has been widely distributed and used in venues around the country to educate the public, provoke discussion, and train service providers.
In 2005, SFCIPP launched the Rights to Realities Initiative, with the long-term goal of ensuring that every child in San Francisco whose parent is arrested and/or incarcerated is guaranteed the rights that follow. Our current work plan involves assessing the current status of each right in San Francisco, and the availability of model practices from around the nation; identifying which agencies might contribute to addressing each right; and working with those agencies to develop responsive policies and practices. Our overarching aim is to ensure that every decision about criminal justice policy and practice takes into account the needs and hopes of children.