An innovative program at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health is providing support for mothers and babies in prison and a year after release.
In partnership with the Indiana Department of Correction, Mothers on the Rise provides a coordinated network of support for women who have children in prison and are released to their home communities. Using a combination of relationships with the prison staff, home visit teams, nurse navigators, social workers and community navigators, women receive support through coordinated visits in the prison nursery and throughout their first year of release.
The program is currently in use at the Leath Maternal-Child Health Unit at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. To date, 13 mother-baby pairs have transitioned from the prison nursery to the community. All pairs have remained together in the community post-release.
“One of our research team members was a participant in the prison nursery and encountered firsthand the barriers and struggles women face when they are released from the Leath unit,” said Jack Turman, Jr., professor of social and behavioral sciences and director of Mothers on the Rise and the Grassroots Maternal and Child Health project. “She was put in a hotel her first night out of prison, then after that she was on her own. There wasn’t anyone to help her navigate finding housing or transitioning back to her home community.”
Now, under the new program, when mothers and babies are released, they are linked to local community navigators who provide social support. Navigators are trained in education, healthcare and social services, and have a passion to serve mother-baby pairs. They are also trained to understand the needs of traditionally marginalized groups.
Navigators are introduced to mothers prior to their release and work closely with them in their home communities. They communicate regularly via texts, phone calls and in-person meetings.
Upon release, the mother-baby pair is also provided with $1,000 in basic clothing, hygiene products and infant care supplies. The women also receive a laptop.
“We want to equip women to have a successful transition back to their home communities,” said Turman. “Our navigators have connected women with food banks, employment opportunities, housing and daycare services. This sort of support is essential to reducing recidivism.”
This initiative grew out of the Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Initiative Project, established 2018, a program that trains and mentors women to help their neighborhoods improve pregnancy and infant development outcomes through peer mentorship and policy advocacy
Recently, Turman and colleagues detailed their efforts at building a successful support program for reentry in the journal Advancing Corrections.
Mothers on the Rise is funded by the Indiana Department of Health through the Title V Maternal and Child Health block grant and Riley Children's Foundation.