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Our Approach

A Focus on Healthy Relationships

Families & Criminal Justice is a relationship-based practice agency. We believe that healthy human development occurs within a nest of nurturing, responsive relationships and we try to duplicate that setting and process for the children, parents and families we serve.


Participants in our program typically grow and develop within social and economic contexts that include poverty, discrimination, and a lack of community supports. Those contexts shape the developmental process of both families and individuals, limiting developmental resources and increasing developmental insults like trauma.  Children who receive few developmental resources and experience many developmental insults have poor developmental outcomes---like school failure and delinquency.


The best developmental resources (such as nurturing caregivers in infancy and early childhood) and the worst developmental insults (like victimization of or by a loved one) occur within children's family relationships. Families & Criminal Justice seeks to increase developmental resources and decrease developmental insults for children of families involved in the criminal justice system by supporting healthy relationships in children's lives:

  • We work with pregnant prisoners to provide the emotional support and resources stripped away by victimization, drugs, crime and incarceration.

  • We work with infants and their formerly incarcerated mothers to support healthy, responsive maternal caregiving by providing for mothers the quality of relationship we want them to provide for their babies.

  • We work with incarcerated parents to provide information and tools they can use to parent appropriately and effectively.

  • We work with children of families involved in the criminal justice system to provide resources and activities for learning, healing and discovering themselves.

In our work, Families & Criminal Justice practitioners attempt to deliver services in a way that is:

  • developmentally appropriate (i.e. responsive to participants' age, gender, developmental status, class, culture and sexual orientation);

  • accepting and non-judgmental;

  • self-aware and mindful; and and

  • oriented towards the goals of social and economic justice.

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