Witnessing the search of your car

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One area that few people consider is what happens when a child witnesses the arrest of his or her parent. The story I heard from that mother was far from unique. I recently co-authored a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology , focusing on the five-plus million children in the United States who have or have had a parent in jail or prison.

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In the chapter, we discuss what is known about the traumatic effects of witnessing incarceration-related events, including arrests, on children. In our research project, led by Dr.

How Witnessing a Parent’s Arrest Affects a Child

Multiple studies have documented the trauma and subsequent suffering and difficulties experienced by children who witness parental arrests. Yet, a report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police states that many law enforcement agencies do not have specific policies in place to protect children during arrests. They propose a model policy to be adopted by law enforcement agencies that includes interagency coordination with, for example, child welfare agencies; training for officers to understand developmentally and trauma-informed ways of interacting with children; pre-arrest planning to minimize exposure of parental arrest to children; and working with the parent whenever possible to identify caregiving options for their children.

I would add that, while efforts to minimize the traumatic effects of parental incarceration are needed, the most effective, broad-reaching, and humane approach to promoting the well-being of children of incarcerated parents is to seriously take on the scourge of mass incarceration and thereby drastically reduce the number of children exposed to parental incarceration. Avoidable threats to child development are best tackled from a prevention perspective, in which the risk itself is reduced or eliminated, rather than solely focusing on addressing the problems that arise from the threat.

Mass incarceration is a public health crisis for children and families in the United States, disproportionately affecting children of color.

A father I spoke with in a state prison described the pains he took to ensure his 2-year-old daughter, for whom he was the primary caregiver, did not witness his arrest for failure to pay child support. He called his mother to watch his daughter, then called the police and waited outside for them to arrive to take him to jail. What would it take for us to put law enforcement policies in place that hold the experiences of children in mind like this father did for his daughter?

Speaking to the police | Victoria Legal Aid

Children witnessing these traumatic events do not just disappear when their parents are incarcerated. They carry their experiences with them to school, in communities, and as they grow into adulthood.

I am grateful to the many caregivers who invited us into their homes and shared their stories. I heard from more than one that their reason for doing so was to shine a light on their experiences and the experiences of their children. When thinking about police practices, especially surrounding arrests, we must remember the children who are watching— and do better. This blog post stems from research Dr. Accept cookies.


Your rights as a witness

Cookie settings. Home Employing people Trade unions and workers rights. Being monitored at work: workers' rights. Overview Employers might monitor workers. Searches Employers should have a written policy on searching. Searches should: respect privacy be done by a member of the same sex be done with a witness present If a search or drug test is badly handled, workers might have a claim for discrimination, assault or false imprisonment.

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