Pregnancy can be hard in the best of circumstances. For a pregnant inmate, incarceration opens up a whole new set of challenges faced only by expectant mothers behind bars.
To coincide with the March issue of Health Affairs, which focuses on issues related to incarceration and health, University of Minnesota researchers Katy Kozhimannil, Ph.D. of the School of Public Health and Rebecca Shlafer, Ph.D. of the Medical School wrote about what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will mean for the 6-10 percent of female prisoners who are pregnant during their incarceration.
“Currently, pregnant inmates have increased rates of complicated and preterm deliveries, and mothers and their babies have more risk factors and worse birth outcomes than similar women who are not incarcerated,” said Kozhimannil.
This week, Sesame Workshop announced its newest initiative: Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, which will provide educational resources for caregivers and children impacted by parental incarceration.
As I’ve talked to colleagues and friends about this project and its upcoming release, I’ve been surprised by the reactions. Their responses have ranged from, “Wow, how great that Sesame Street is tackling this issue!” to “Is that really what our world has come to, the Muppets’ parents are now in jail?”
Combined, these reactions summarize important points about this issue. Parental incarceration is a large and growing problem in our country, but it’s a topic that has not garnered much attention from either scientific or media communities, and many people’s initial reactions to the topic are generally negative.
A new Sesame Workshop initiative will get big backing from a University of Minnesota researcher. Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration supports families with young children who have an incarcerated parent, through the use of interactive and age-appropriate resources. Minnesota is one of just 10 pilot states involved with the effort.
The program was highlighted at the White House in Washington, D.C. Rebecca Shlafer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics, took part in the event. Shlafer was joined by other experts in this field from across the country in an effort to call attention to the importance of this serious issue.