February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week

(Chicago) – The National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) has announced that February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week 2017.

“At a time that our country is finally facing the science that has shown repeatedly that addiction is a treatable brain disorder and is moving to address it effectively in our medical systems and criminal justice systems, it is still failing to protect and promote the rights of the millions of children whose home life daily is overwhelmed by the misuse of alcohol and drugs,” said NACoA President and CEO Sis Wenger. “The people who should be nurturing and protecting them are, instead, consumed by an insidious disease that erodes family life and leaves their children to suffer in stifling silence, feeling alone and desperate. It is time, finally, for America to do the right thing for these most at-risk children.”

With age-appropriate help, children of addicted parents can find ways to resolve the stress in their lives, including exercises like mindfulness, through which they can learn strategies to reduce stress levels and begin to heal, reports NACoA.

“Just as children are affected by parents’ addiction, they also can be deeply affected by the recovery process,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who serves as vice chair of NACoA’s board of directors. “Everyone in a family affected by addiction needs healing. Like their parents in recovery, children may also need to learn new ways of coping, solving problems, and being happy.”

NACoA is the oldest national membership and affiliate non-profit organization committed to eliminating the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families.

TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) serves adults and adolescents who have substance use or mental health conditions and who are involved in justice or child welfare systems.




Parental Addiction Treatment Improves Child Welfare Outcomes: TASC President Pam Rodriguez at Capitol Hill Briefing

(Chicago) – TASC President Pam Rodriguez shared highlights of Illinois’ successful Recovery Coach program at a December 3 Capitol Hill briefing focused on issues and solutions in child welfare reform.

In partnership with the offices of U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Children and Family Futures hosted the briefing, entitled The Elephant in the Room: Access to Substance Abuse Treatment—A Cornerstone of Child Welfare Reform. With an audience encompassing Congressional staff, policymakers, and child welfare advocates, the briefing highlighted the role of substance use disorders in the child welfare system and what works to better serve affected children and their families.

Rodriguez presented lessons and outomes from Illinois’ Recovery Coach program, which addresses substance use disorders among parents whose children have been removed from custody due to substance-related maltreatment. The program began in 2000, funded through a Title IV-E waiver granted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). TASC has provided services for the Recovery Coach program since its inception in Cook County in 2000, as well as in Madison and St. Clair counties since the program expanded in 2007.

Links between childhood maltreatment and delinquency. There is growing understanding of the connection between child maltreatment and later delinquency, and the crossover of children who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Young people involved in these systems face a host of complex challenges, which may include trauma, educational difficulties, mental health conditions, sexual abuse, and the instability of group homes or foster care placement.

TASC works with DCFS to help stabilize children in care and reduce young people’s likelihood of becoming involved in the justice system.

Intensive outreach and case management. Through the Recovery Coach program, TASC works with the parent, child welfare caseworker, and alcohol/drug treatment agency to remove barriers to treatment, engage the parent in treatment, provide outreach to re-engage the parent if necessary, and provide ongoing support to the parent and family through the duration of the child welfare case.

As Rodriguez explained in the briefing, the program draws on research pointing to the complex needs of parents involved in child welfare and justice systems. For example, a 2014 needs assessment report by the Center for Children and Family Futures for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention synthesized hundreds of Family Drug Court surveys, stakeholder interviews, and more than 2,500 technical assistance requests from all 50 states.

Among Family Drug Courts, services for parents were consistently identified as priorities. Systems must recognize and respond to complex and multiple needs arising from trauma, dual-diagnosis, and domestic violence; responses include engagement and retention strategies, recovery supports, and serving parents in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The report also found that sustainability of funding and cross-system knowledge emerge as consistently-cited needs among jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Rodriguez noted that the Recovery Coach program’s success comes from not only the direct services to parents, but also the understanding of and attention to the cross-systems issues that influence outcomes. Further, the program provides a response to the opiate crisis that is affecting child welfare systems.

“With the rise in heroin use across the country, even more children are being removed from their homes and placed in foster care,” said Rodriguez. “By working with systems to address complex issues around addiction, programs like Recovery Coach and Family Drug Courts make it possible to safely return many affected children.”

Effectiveness and cost savings. A 2012 in-depth program evaluation by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that parents with a TASC recovery coach were more likely to access treatment, and children whose parents had recovery coaches were more likely to be safely reunified with their parents.

Furthermore, children whose parents had recovery coaches were significantly less likely to be associated with a subsequent juvenile arrest.

In addition, according to the March 2015 semi-annual progress report released by DCFS, the Recovery Coach program has generated more than $10 million in savings for the State of Illinois since the program began in 2000. These savings come from significantly higher rates of family reunification, resulting in fewer youth in the system, as well as quicker reunification, resulting in fewer days spent in foster care.

TASC is a statewide, independent case management and care coordination agency in Illinois, annually serving 27,000 individuals referred by criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems.

TASC’s Khalid Scott Honored Among Chicago Defender’s Men of Excellence

(Chicago) – The Chicago Defender honored TASC Clinical Supervisor Khalid Scott at the publication’s 8th annual “Men of Excellence” celebration at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on January 16.

One of the nation’s oldest and most influential African-American newspapers, the Chicago Defender annually recognizes men in both public and private sectors who personify the qualities of respect, responsibility, passion, brotherhood, and leadership.

Hosted by NBC Chicago’s Art Norman, the award celebration drew an estimated 500 guests and recognized 50 men as this year’s honorees.

Since 2002, Scott has served as clinical supervisor for TASC’s Recovery Coach program, which helps parents who have lost custody of their children because of parental substance use disorders. According to a 2012 study by the University of Illinois, an estimated 50 percent of children in the Illinois foster care system are removed from families with serious drug problems.

Through this program, which is led by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, TASC Recovery Coaches provide proactive case management and intensive outreach to engage and retain parents in treatment and recovery.

“After a short while working with the Recovery Coach program, I really understood the impact of our work in helping the birth parents,” said Scott. “Once they learned to live sober lives then they’re more likely to be able to be reunited with their children.”

“We are so proud of Khalid and his dedication to families and kids in need,” added TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “His optimism and enthusiasm permeate everything he does.”

The 2012 University of Illinois study found that reunification rates were 21 percent greater for children of parents in the Recovery Coach program than for a control group who did not receive the services; the study also found that the re-arrest rate for youth whose parents are in the program was cut in half. In addition, the program saved the State of Illinois more than $6.1 million between 2000 and 2010.

“We have reunified hundreds of families and have helped save millions of dollars,” said Scott. “Recovery is a long, hard path, but it’s amazing to see the happiness and joy of families coming together.”

In addition to working with TASC, Scott is a college lecturer, youth mentor, godfather, and proud father of daughter Anayah.

Family members, friends, and colleagues of TASC Clinical Supervisor Khalid Scott gathered to honor him as one of the Chicago Defender's 2015 Men of Excellence.  Front row: Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Jean Mays, TASC; Kathleen Scott, Khalid’s mother. Back row, left to right: Rochelle Wade, TASC; Markus McCown, TASC; Marcia Bass, TASC; LaNoah Lomax, mentee; Anayah Scott, Khalid’s daughter; Khalid Scott, TASC; Tressa Epps, friend and nominator.

Family members, friends, and colleagues of TASC Clinical Supervisor Khalid Scott gathered to honor him as one of the Chicago Defender’s 2015 Men of Excellence. Front row, left to right: Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Jean Mays, TASC; Kathleen Scott, Khalid’s mother. Back row, left to right: Rochelle Wade, TASC; Markus McCown, TASC; Marcia Bass, TASC; LaNoah Lomax, friend and mentee; Anayah Scott, Khalid’s daughter; Khalid Scott, TASC; Tressa Epps, friend and nominator.



Illinois Parents Facing Relinquishment of Kids with Mental Illness to Get Help

(Chicago) – A shrunken public safety net in Illinois due to budget cuts has forced numerous parents into an anguished-filled dilemma: whether to relinquish custody of their children with serious mental or emotional problems in order to get them care.

As of January 1, 2015, a new Illinois law will help avert this agonizing choice for parents.

House Bill 5598, sponsored by State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on August 1.

The new law addresses scenarios in which parents resort to relinquishing custody, making their children wards of the state, in order to gain access to urgently needed treatment through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Wards of the state are entitled to care for these serious conditions.

“Over the past few years, children with mental illnesses have faced diminishing programs and services due to persistent and harsh state budget cuts,” said Feigenholtz. “With nowhere else to go, desperate parents are being forced to give up custody of their children. This law will make sure that families aren’t being torn apart.”

Illinois agencies will now organize a coordinated state response to help find and provide affordable care without forcing this decision. The bill requires DCFS and other state agencies – the Department of Human Services (DHS), the State Board of Education (BOE), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and the Department of Public Health (DPH) – to create an intergovernmental team that will create a path for parents who have exhausted all other options to help them to secure health care for their children without having to relinquish custody.

Feigenholtz obtained an additional $7 million in the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget to fund mental health services that she says will allow DCFS to help keep families intact.

“This bill is a common sense measure to protect families and children across Illinois,” Feigenholtz said. “It ensures that children can receive the mental health treatment they need and continue to thrive in the supportive and loving environments provided by their families.”

“Parents should never be put in the position of having to give up custody of their child in order for the child to get mental health care,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “Representative Feigenholtz’s bill will keep families together as they get the care they critically need.”

IL State Sen. Mattie Hunter, Walgreens’ Steve Pemberton to Receive TASC 2014 Leadership Awards

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

(Chicago) – Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton will receive TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 10. 

“By their leadership and examples, Senator Hunter and Mr. Pemberton show us what public service looks like,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “They are powerful advocates for children and families, and we are honored to present them with our 2014 leadership awards.”

Senator Hunter, who will receive TASC’s Justice Leadership Award, is a consistent champion for addiction treatment and fair criminal justice policies. As a State Senator since 2003, she has led efforts to assure funding for addiction treatment, especially within challenging fiscal environments. She also chaired the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission and led its investigation of drug policies that have resulted in the over-representation of minorities in Illinois’ courts and prisons.

Most recently, Senator Hunter secured successful passage in the General Assembly of legislation designed to expand the use of criminal justice diversion programs that connect individuals to community-based services. This bill is a step forward in enacting “No Entry” policies to reverse the flood of people with non-violent offenses entering the justice system.

“We are grateful to Senator Hunter for her leadership in confronting tough challenges,” said Rodriguez. “Whether securing funding for human services or advocating for policies that apply justice more fairly, Senator Hunter has been a trusted friend to the families and communities we seek to serve.”

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC will present its 2104 Public Voice Leadership Award award to Steve Pemberton, chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Pemberton spent much of his childhood as a ward of the state of Massachusetts. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home (2012) describes his difficult path through foster care and determined search for family.

Pemberton’s story underscores the importance of connected and accountable systems of care, the value in programs and services that protect and support children, and the essential inclusion of opportunities to intervene with parents struggling with substance use disorders or mental illness.

“Mr. Pemberton’s painful childhood journey is one that too many children experience,” said Rodriguez, “and we share in his deep commitment to continually improve the services and systems that affect the lives of vulnerable children.

“There is great hope in his story as well,” she added. “We can also help people come to healing as adults. That is why we do what we do.”

Each year, TASC recognizes outstanding leaders who have demonstrated innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges. The agency’s 2014 luncheon will take place Wednesday, December 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at The Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Find out more about the luncheon and sponsorship opportunities and order tickets online. Please call (312) 573-8201 for additional information.

Sam’s Club Donation Helps TASC Serve Parents & Babies

sc logo(Chicago) — Two TASC programs that serve children and families in Chicago and Peoria have received generous donations from Bentonville, Arkansas-based Sam’s Club. The donations include nearly 800 containers of baby formula as well as 1,100 diapers and nearly 8,000 wipes.

The gift was facilitated by Ivie & Associates and Diamond Marketing Solutions, an Illinois-based company.

For the more than 2,600 families TASC supports through these programs, the items provide critical relief for household budgets that are severely strained. A 2013 report published in the journal Pediatrics found that 30 percent of mothers in poverty report that an adequate supply of diapers is unaffordable to them, correlating to significantly increased maternal depression and anxiety, which also creates greater social, emotional, and behavioral risks for children.

A sufficient supply of diapers costs an average of $18 per week per child, the study reported. Almost 8 percent of women reported changing diapers less frequently when their supply is running short, creating significant risks for baby diaper rash and urinary tract infections.

The federal SNAP (food stamp) program does not allow for the purchase of diapers, and families in poverty often lack washing machines to clean cloth diapers. In Illinois, State Senator Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign) proposed legislation earlier this year (SB2672) to exempt diapers from sales tax.

The diapers and other donations to TASC from Sam’s Club directly support families in Illinois who struggle with these basic necessities.

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca (left) and Philanthropy Director Ben Underwood (right) with donated formula ready to deliver to families.

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca (left) and Philanthropy Director Ben Underwood (right) with donated formula ready to deliver to families.

In Chicago, the Recovery Coach Program helps parents with alcohol or other drug problems achieve the sobriety and wellness they need to be the parents their children deserve. TASC works with each client individually, developing a recovery plan and ensuring that parents have access to the community-based support services they need to provide a healthy and stable home.

DSCF6460In Peoria, TASC’s Smart Start  program serves low-income, high-risk women and girls who are pregnant or who have children under age five. Smart Start was created as a response to an infant mortality crisis in Peoria County, where in recent years the local infant mortality rate has been alarmingly higher than the national average. TASC’s intensive one-on-one work with at-risk mothers ensures that they receive proper prenatal care and education, and helps women build and maintain healthy lives for themselves and

“TASC is deeply grateful to have Sam’s Club, Ivie & Associates, and Diamond Marketing Solutions as partners in our work,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “Without basic necessities like diapers, parents struggle and children suffer. It truly takes all of us working together to help children grow up in healthy families.”





The Impact on Children of a Parent’s Incarceration

More American children than ever are experiencing life with at least one parent behind bars, with estimates ranging from 1.7 to 2.7 million children affected on any given day.[i],[ii] The Pew Charitable Trusts reported in 2010 that one in every 28 children in the U.S. has a parent behind bars, up from one in 125 just 25 years earlier.[iii] That’s an average of about one child in every classroom across the country.

The U.S. has the unseemly distinction of being the world’s leader in locking up its own residents, currently holding more than 2.3 million people in jail or prison.[iv]  These record incarceration rates affect growing numbers of parents and children. Between 1991 and midyear 2007, the number of parents held in state and federal prisons increased by 79%, and children of incarcerated parents increased by 80%.[v]

“We are living in a world where growing up with a parent in jail or prison is becoming a normal fact of life for too many children,” says Janelle Prueter, head of corrections reentry services for Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), an Illinois nonprofit that provides statewide reentry case management and alternatives to incarceration.

As the numbers of parents and children affected by incarceration have increased, so too have the studies on the consequences of this phenomenon. In its March 2012 Psychological Bulletin, the American Psychological Association reported that, based on 40 studies on the impact of incarceration on children, antisocial behavior is the most pronounced risk for these children. “The most rigorous studies showed that parental incarceration is associated with higher risk for children’s antisocial behavior,” write Murray et al., “but not for mental health problems, drug use, or poor educational performance.”[vi]

In the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Johnson and Easterling concur that the unique impact of a parent’s incarceration is, as yet, undetermined. They note that it is difficult to single out the effects of incarceration as distinct from the other adversities these children face.[vii] For instance, people affected by incarceration also face disproportionate levels of poverty and addiction, as compared to the general population.

“In Illinois, thousands of children who have incarcerated parents are dealing with a parent’s addiction as well,” says Prueter, who oversees services for more than 6,000 substance-involved people each year who are in prison and on parole in Illinois.

Indeed, substance use disorders fuel the incarceration epidemic. According to the latest Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring data collected in 10 sites across the U.S., more than 60 percent of people arrested in 2011 tested positive for at least one illicit substance, with rates in Chicago and Sacramento topping 80 percent.[viii] Two thirds of incarcerated individuals meet the clinical criteria for substance addiction, but only 11 percent receive any kind of treatment.[ix]

“Having an incarcerated parent is an adverse childhood experience, and so is having an addicted parent,” says Peter Palanca, executive vice president of TASC and vice chair of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA). “We need to pay attention to what’s happening to these children. They need intervention and resources not only to help them get through their current circumstances in a pro-social way, but also to prevent them from experiencing poorer health and social problems later in their lives.”

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study is an ongoing research effort of Kaiser Permanente and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on more than 17,000 health screenings of adults, it reveals “staggering proof of the health, social, and economic risks that result from childhood trauma.”[x]  The imprisonment of a parent is one of the childhood adversities measured in the 10-question survey. The higher a person’s ACE score, the stronger the likelihood that he or she will experience troubles such as alcoholism, illicit drug use, smoking, lung disease, liver disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and other negative health outcomes.

Stigma is a key factor associated with these adverse experiences, says Palanca. “As with children of alcoholics, children of incarcerated parents face a great deal of shame, guilt, and confusion. They need to have a voice, a safe way of expressing their thoughts and feelings about what’s happening.”

With more than 2,200 state and federal correctional facilities across the U.S., there are scant resources for the children of parents housed in these institutions. One program in Illinois is the Moms & Babies program at the Decatur Correctional Center, where mothers of newborns receive counseling and resources to help them learn healthy parenting skills. Focusing on incarcerated fathers, the National Fatherhood Initiative has developed the faith-based InsideOut Dadprogram, an evidence-based reentry model currently used in about two dozen correctional facilities across the country.

Once released from prison, people on parole need strong support in establishing new and positive connections with their communities and families. In Illinois–where 49,000 people are in state prisons and another 25,000 are on parole–Summits of Hope resource fairs provide information for men and women who have been released from state correctional facilities. Supported by the Illinois Department of Corrections and organized locally by community groups, service agencies, and government, these events offer individually-tailored guidance through information on parenting training, drug treatment, health screening, interviewing skills, and more.

Although resources for incarcerated parents and their children are scant compared to the need, these programs represent some of the trends toward acknowledging the scope and importance of the matter. The issue has garnered international awareness as well. In March 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution in support of children’s rights, with sections devoted to the issue of parental incarceration. [xi] The concept was originated in the U.S. by the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, who defined this Bill of Rights for children of incarcerated parents:[xii]

1. I have the right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent’s arrest.

2. I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me.

3. I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.

4. I have the right to be well-cared for in my parent’s absence.

5. I have the right to speak with, see, and touch my parent.6. I have the right to support as I face my parent’s incarceration.

7. I have the right not to be judged, blamed, or labeled because of my parent’s incarceration.

8. I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.

The short-term and long-term consequences of a parent’s incarceration are still being studied, and will vary from child to child. What is becoming more recognized, however, is the fact that record numbers of children are being affected. 

“There’s so much more we all can do,” says Palanca. “A good place to start is understanding that children of incarcerated parents have a right to be heard and recognized. Teachers, counselors, youth workers, and faith leaders are uniquely positioned to notice what’s happening and provide extra support. We also need to better connect incarcerated parents with their children in a healthy ways. Every child in the world has a right to feel safe and loved.”


The bill of rights for children of incarcerated parents can be found at www.sfcipp.org

For information on the impact of addiction on children and families, visit www.nacoa.org

For further information on TASC’s reentry services in Illinois, visit www.tasc.org.

[i] National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated. (2009). Children and families of the incarcerated fact sheet.  Retrieved 22 May 2012 from http://fcnetwork.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/fact-sheet.pdf

[ii] The Pew Charitable Trusts, (2010). Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts.

[iii] ibid.

[iv] Human Rights Watch. (2012.) World Report 2012: United States.  Retrieved 19 October 2012 from  http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-united-states

[v] Glaze, L. E. & Maruschak, L. M. (2008, August). Parents in prison and their minor children. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report. NCJ 222984.

[vi] Murray, J., Farrington, D. P. & Sekol, I. (2012, March). Children’s antisocial behavior, mental health, drug use, and educational performance after parental incarceration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 138(2), 175-210.

[vii] Johnson, E. & Easterling, B. (2012, April). Understanding unique effects of parental incarceration on children: Challenges, progress, and recommendations. Journal of Marriage and Family. Vol. 74(2), 342-356.

[viii] Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2012, May 17). New survey results show majority of adult males arrested in 10 U.S. cities test positive for illegal drugs at time of arrest. (Press release). Retrieved 24 May 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/news-releases-remarks/new-survey-results-show-majority-of-adult-males-arrested-in-ten-us-cities-test-positive-for-illegal

[ix] The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2010, February 26). New CASA report finds 65 percent of all U.S. inmates meet medical criteria for substance abuse addiction, only 11 percent receive any treatment. (Press release). Retrieved 22 May 2012 from http://www.casacolumbia.org/templates/PressReleases.aspx?articleid=592&zoneid=79

[x] The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Retrieved 24 May 2012 from http://www.acestudy.org/home

[xi] Sentencing Project. (2012, March 27). Bill of rights for children of incarcerated parents. Retrieved 24 May 2012 from http://www.sentencingproject.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=1280&id=143

[xii]San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents. Retrieved 24 May 2012 from http://www.sfcipp.org/

 Contributed by Daphne Baille, director of communications for TASC