New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents
Using a Systematic Process to Prioritize Goals
Before the RWJF grant, staff from the NY Initiative and its partners used a traditional voting process during meetings to reach consensus on priorities for the upcoming year. While this exercise was useful, the technical assistance provided through the RWJF grant helped to improve the thinking behind, and structure around, this voting process. Specifically, stakeholders developed a tool, which also includes a scoring rubric, to provide guidance for identifying priorities based on agreed upon criteria — for example, is the goal winnable? Are sufficient resources available to make it happen? Or, does the Initiative have the right expertise to accomplish the goal? The NY Initiative’s Steering Committee and partners routinely use this tool to establish priorities for the following year.
Leveraging Partners for Dissemination and Infusion
As part of a broader resource mapping activity, the NY Initiative maps its partners’ participation on task forces, work groups, committees, and other coalitions that discuss issues that may be related to or affect COIP. Although many of the partners’ meetings and events are broader in scope than the COIP topic (e.g., an interagency task force on youth issues), the NY Initiative is cognizant of the broad applicability of COIP issues and encourages partners to infuse COIP messages into discussions to make a positive difference for COIP within any system that serves children (e.g., school, daycare, health clinics, etc.). The NY Initiative understands that it may not be obvious to partners how to make connections between issues (e.g., the connection between “disconnected youth” and COIP, or the connection between school absenteeism and COIP). Therefore, one of the Initiative’s goals is to build capacity among its partners. To assist with this, the Initiative provides partners with tools (e.g., tip sheets, fact sheets, talking points, principles, posters, and handbooks) and other forms of support, such as training and technical assistance. The mapping of partners’ involvement on task forces, work groups, committees, and other coalitions occurs over time, captures shifts in membership, and helps to highlight emerging challenges in partners’ attempts to integrate COIP messages with new audiences.
Building Readiness for COIP Data Collection
A priority area for the Initiative in 2015 is to build the readiness of partners to collect data on the number of children with incarcerated parents. Collecting more data allows partner agencies to better understand how their organizations can better serve COIP. For example, schools can better train teachers if they know how many children who have an incarcerated parent attend the school. Many organizations and schools would like to collect these data, but require new capacity (knowledge and skills) to do so in ways that are rigorous and respectful (e.g., awareness of the stigma around being a child of an incarcerated parent and the associated need for confidentiality). The NY Initiative also aims to increase the motivation and willingness of partners who may not view COIP data collection as pressing (e.g., because of competing priorities, resistance, or limited appreciation of the COIP issue). Quick solutions do not exist, and in many cases, capacity and motivation for COIP data collection will need to be enhanced.