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Macer plan to help incarcerated parents maintain a relationship with their children heads to governor

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INDIANAPOLIS – Children may have a better chance at maintaining a relationship with an incarcerated parent if Governor Eric Holcomb signs legislation authored by Representative Karlee Macer (D-Speedway).

House Bill 1432 serves as a solution to the negative consequences of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which was passed by Congress in 1997 to get children out of foster case and into an adopted family. AFSA requires states to file a petition to terminate the parental rights of a child if the child is in foster care for 15 of 22 consecutive months. Unfortunately, this act led to the permanent severance of parent-child relationships despite the incarcerated parent’s efforts or ability to play a positive role in their child’s life.

“House Bill 1432 gives an incarcerated parent the opportunity to maintain a relationship with their son or daughter while continuing to place paramount emphasis on the well-being of the child,” Macer said.

The bill would allow a judge to take a comprehensive look at the role the incarcerated mom or dad plays in their child’s life, the remaining length of their sentence, previous incarcerations or dismissals of the parent, and the timeline of the permanent place of the child when determining whether or not to terminate parental rights.

“Right now, there are roughly 3 million children with a mom or dad incarcerated in a U.S. prison,” Macer said. “In fact, over half of the 2 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails are the parents of a minor child. When we have such a large population of children with incarcerated parents, we need to take a good look at whether that relationship is beneficial or harmful to the child before permanently cutting ties.”

Indiana has the second highest rate of incarcerated parents in the country. Eleven percent of Indiana children – about 180,000 – have had a parent incarcerated at some point during their lives. According to the Urban Institute, the separation between a child and their parents can cause depression, aggression, social isolation, and an inability to regulate emotion and behavior.

“When we send a mom or dad to prison for writing bad checks or using drugs, we don’t consider what effect that will have on their children,” Macer said. “We may be permanently destroying a chance for a child to have a meaningful relationship with their parent.”

The U.S. imprisons over one-third of all incarcerated women in the world and 80 percent of those women are mothers. Women are five times as likely as men to lose their children during incarceration, and since they are often the primary caregivers, the resulting separation can be devastating for the parent and the child.

“I have witnessed firsthand the impact that prison can have on the bond between a parent and their child while working with inmates at the Indiana Women’s Prison,” Macer said. “In some cases, parental rights should be terminated, but I have witnessed moms at the Indiana Women’s Prison work incredibly hard taking classes and staying in contact with their children while in prison to play a meaningful and positive role in their child’s life.

“The moms and dads who work tirelessly to turn their lives around for their children from the inside of a prison cell deserve a chance to prove that they can be a positive influence in the lives of their children,” Macer concluded.

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