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Early Head Start Classroom in Women’s Correctional Facility

Last Revised: Mar 17, 2011 - Initial Posting: Aug 25, 2005

Community Action operates an Early Head Start classroom at a women’s correctional facility to serve as a positive link between the parent, the caregiver and the EHS staff leading to greater growth for the child and parent.


Community Action created an Early Head Start Classroom at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility to strengthen and enhance the mother-child relationship and the caregiver-mother relationship in preparation for the mother’s release.  Eight children and their incarcerated mothers are served in a combination model at the Corrections facility.  Coffee Creek has both medium and minimum security, but only women in minimum security can be involved with the program.  The prison provides space and utilities at no charge.

The primary goals are to:

  • Promote attachment and bonding between the mother and child
  • Support the relationship between the caregiver and the child’s mother
  • Support the caregiver in providing a healthy environment for the child

There are two half-day sessions each week involving the mother and child, with supportive services for the caregiver running concurrently on one of the two days.  Mothers and caregivers also participate in parenting classes.  Two monthly home visits are conducted, one with the incarcerated mother and one with the caregiver.

As described in the program overview, CA has developed a variety of approaches to meet the individual needs of each Coffee Creek family including:

  • Early Head Start part-day combination model
  • Locally designed option: weekly classroom experience for mom and child
  • Home-based model for incarcerated women
  • Locally designed home-based model for women released from incarceration

Coffee Creek Early Head Start Classroom ProceduresVarious procedures have been established by the Oregon Department of Corrections that address:

  • Overview of the Coffee Creek Early Head Start Program
  • Physical Security of the Building and Grounds
  • Program Selection Criteria
  • Inmate Expectations
  • Role of Program Staff
  • Role of Facility Counselors
  • Role of Custody Staff
  • Role of Caregivers
  • Food Services Responsibilities
  • DHS Relationship
  • Minimum Training Required/Provided
  • Inmate Access Process
  • Unusual Incident Reporting
  • Emergency Procedures

A Parent Handbook provides extensive information for both caregivers and moms.  Enrollment has been a lengthy process because the prison must approve the parent and the caregiver must be willing to participate and to transport the child.  Mileage reimbursement is provided.  However, some caregivers have lived as much as 60 miles away.

The program is expensive since it requires 1.5 FTE of teaching/social service staff, extensive mental health support for all participants, and significant monies for staff mileage to visit caregivers.  85% of the women in Coffee Creek have Borderline Personality Disorder, which results in their mental health needs affecting their relationship with their child, with staff, and with others.

A partnership was formed with the Wilsonville Public Library, which received a grant for $10,090 in February 2008 through the Oregon! Ready to Learn Initiative.  This was used for an early literacy program for mothers incarcerated at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and their young children served in the Early Head Start center.


Examples of positive media coverage received by the program include:

The strong level of support from prison officials was cited in a CA Head Start audit report conducted in 2005 that noted a comment by the Correctional Center Superintendent “that the center’s relationship with the Head Start program has made a “significant impact on law enforcement and the judicial system in the state.”

A Fact Sheet provides data on the Coffee Creek Early Head Start Program from 2001 - February 2010 including:

  • 71 mothers served
    • 8 currently enrolled
    • 29 born while at CC
  • 22 families involved with child welfare services since 2003
    • 14 with non-relative providing foster care
  • 64 mothers served since 2001
    • 54 mothers reunited with children upon release (that we know)
    • 12 mothers lost privilege to attend program
  • 66 caregivers involved with the children
    • 3 great grandmothers
    • 29 grandmothers
    • 12 fathers
  • Most children were exposed to or present during domestic violence
  • Women’s crimes are related to identity theft and addiction
  • Most moms had their children with them while they were addicted
  • All women we work with have had experience of sexual abuse and/or domestic violence
  • 85% of the women at Coffee Creek are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Farzana Siddiqui, Director of Child Development