GHICIP Enhanced Visits – Gaining Public Attention
This week, an in-depth article "Keeping Family Ties From Behind Bars" was published by the Register Star Newspaper, discussing the Enhanced Visit Program at the Columbia County Jail, which can be viewed here. For the past four months, the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood's Initiative GHICIP (Greater Hudson Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents) has offered "enhanced visits" or "bonding visits" to children who have a parent incarcerated in the Columbia County Jail. Routine visits at the County Jail allow for a welcoming and parting kiss, but do not allow any physical contact during visits in which children must sit on a hard, metal stool, separated by their parent by a glass partition. During the enhanced visits, however, children are allowed constant contact with their parent. They are able to sit at a table aside their parent, or on their parent's lap, and can play games, read books, do homework, etc. These visits are accommodating for children and allow for age appropriate methods of bonding with their parent. Particularly for younger children who are not able to sit for long periods of time, these visits offer opportunities for parents and children to participate in several different activities and also allow for natural and spontaneous affection and exchanges between parent and child. All of the children who have participated in this program over the past four months have expressed gratitude for being able to visit with their parent in a less intimidating context than booth visits or contact visits with a glass/metal barrier between them and their parent. Parents have also conveyed their gratitude for the program. One parent who has had weekly visits with his children since the beginning of the program stated that his incarceration had been very difficult for his children but that the visits give them, and him, something to look forward to each week. To date, GHICIP has facilitated 48 visits, serving 11 different children and 8 parents. Project Director Joan Hunt and Program Coordinator Nicole Fallon Carney currently facilitate visits on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings and are working diligently with the County Jail to accommodate as many families as possible so that consistency and regular contact can be maintained. For more information on GHICIP and the Enhanced Visit Program, please visit the Greater Hudson Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parent's website, here.