An innovative partnership between the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF)
The Parenting Sentencing Alternative, Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 6639, was enacted in June 2010. This law allows some incarcerated individuals who are parents of minor children the opportunity to avoid prison or transfer from incarceration in order to parent their children. One component of this law is the Community Parenting Alternative (CPA), which allows DOC to transfer an incarcerated individual home on electronic monitoring for up to the last 12 months of their sentence.
In order to determine a parent’s eligibility in the CPA program, DOC facilitates a committee of stakeholders, including DCYF as a partner, to assess participation. DCYF staff support DOC community corrections officers by providing training and professional development on the Strengthening Families Protective Factors, assessing and addressing domestic violence, providing referrals to early learning and early childhood services and more.
DCYF staff participate in the monthly screening panel for participants to determine the best interest of the child when transferring cases to CPA. In 2019, they met Dale Clark – a case they were originally unsure of. Here’s his story:
Dale was a well-known drug dealer in Kitsap County. He was in and out of prison several times since 2007. When he applied for the CPA program in 2019, he was on his fourth incarceration and was fighting to keep his parental rights for his daughter, Airabella, who had been in foster care for four years – nearly her entire life.
After transferring to the CPA program, Dale fought hard to prevent anything from coming between reunification with his daughter. He completed 10 months of CPA with no infractions and met all of the requirements of the CPA program.
Dale now works full-time at the Salvation Army. He helps those who are homeless receive detox, treatment and find sober housing. He keeps in touch with his DOC community corrections officer, and wants to be a mentor to anyone struggling with addiction or going through the process of regaining custody of their children.
As of Sept. 1, 2020, Airabella permanently returned to Dale’s custody. She is enrolled in preschool, and they’re moving into a big house with a lot of space to enjoy together as a family.
Without this program, Dale’s parental rights would have undoubtedly been terminated and Airabella would have grown up without her dad. Both of their lives are changed forever because of the opportunity provided by CPA and because of Dale’s hard work.
Dale’s story highlights the importance of the partnerships DCYF has with DOC, and how prevention and intervention can work together to support systems, communities and families.
Read more about this program online: An Unlikely Partnership: Strengthening Families Touched by Incarceration.