Jailed Parents: Who Protects The Kids?


When New York City police discovered the body of Myls Dobson last January, the four-year-old weighed just 37 pounds and his body displayed evidence of beatings received at the hands of his caregiver—who had been entrusted with his care after the toddler's father was arrested.

An investigation later found that New York childcare authorities had failed to investigate the boy's situation. It's a little known fact of policing that while many jurisdictions instruct officers on what they should do when a dog is present during an arrest, very few have concrete guidelines for how to handle children.

A handful of states and municipalities, including Connecticut, New Mexico, Santa Clara, CA, and Allegheny County, PA, have passed legislation or developed policy guidelines to focus on the issue—but in most jurisdictions, cops still rely on their instincts.

“We need to give [police officers]…a foundation about what child trauma is, and how they can impact that trauma,” Amanda Zelechoski, a psychology professor at Indiana's Valparaiso University, told Christopher Moraff of the Philadelphia Tribune.

Moraff, a 2014 Reporting Fellow with the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explored the impact of imprisonment on mothers and children, as well as racial disparities in drug treatment, in a series of Philadelphia Tribune articles produced as part of a project for the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America this year.

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