Women and Family Services operates under the mission of IDOC with a concentration on the development and implementation of policies, programs and services needed to respond specifically to women's pathways in and out of crime and to the contexts of their lives that support criminal behavior. Women and Family Services, created in May 1999, serves as an important milestone in the recognition of the unique issues female offenders face.
Treatment and services for women are based on women's competencies and strengths and promote self-reliance. Women focus groups are evident, such as healing from trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault survivor and grief understanding groups and relationship building. Substance abuse treatment is designed to be specific to gender and deals with pathways into substance abusing behavior. To fully address the needs of women, the programs use a variety of interventions with behavioral, cognitive, effective/dynamic and systems perspectives. Gender responsive assessment tools and individualized treatment plans are used with appropriate treatment matched to the identified needs and assets of each offender. Spiritual programs are also encouraged and considered an important element of the holistic treatment concept.
Children and families play an important role in the management of offenders in custodial settings. Women and Family Services has created programs to maintain and strengthen family ties, particularly between parents and children. All women facilities offer parenting programs for all levels of offenders. At the Decatur, Logan and Fox Valley facilities, family activities range from day camps for mothers and children, video visiting programs, storybook programs, summer read programs, 4-H clubs and holiday activities for mothers and children.
The Moms and Babies Program, which held its first anniversary in 2008, is designed to help strengthen the special bond that is critical to a healthy mother and child relationship. The program at Decatur Correctional Center can currently accommodate eight mothers and their babies, with a long-range goal of housing up to 20 mothers and babies. The program allows qualified mothers to keep their newborn babies with them and supports the incarcerated mother in developing and nurturing a bond with her infant through effective programming and a safe and supportive living environment. The program also affords the opportunity to build a sound foundation for a strong family structure to continue upon release. Additionally, the division also recognizes the need for unique treatment protocol for pregnant female offenders. Special medical monitoring, treatment protocols, housing options, nutritional plans, and family service counseling are available to this targeted population.
Numerous opportunities in the areas of vocational education are available to the women offenders. An initiative currently being pursued is the linkage between the vocational program and employers in the community who are willing to hire ex-offenders. Women and Family Services has plans to use job fairs and community sponsors to further enhance this initiative. The goal is to expand home-based business opportunities for the female offender as well as create a foundation for financial independence for the mother and her children. Currently women are being trained as service dog trainers, pet groomers, nail technicians, cosmetologists, computer specialists, building maintenance and in the culinary arts programs.
Women and Family Services promotes cultural awareness and sensitivity through the resources and strengths available through staff, volunteers and community organizations. Mentoring programs are being developed to assist the incarcerated adult in bridging the gap between prison and community. Transitional programs are included as part of gender responsive practices, with a particular focus on building long-term community support networks for women. All women facilities have referral sources and funding for transitional assistance in housing, employment and educational needs. This support is through various grant-funded programs as well as through the department's Placement Resource Unit. Additionally, all women who are being released are given the opportunity to take home clothing donated by the community. The clothing ranges from casual to business attire. Donations are accepted by all of the facilities.
A final initiative is to become good neighbors to the community. Currently, Women and Family Services participates in the following community service projects: Wigs for Kids donations, Harvest Walks for the Hungry, Project Linus, in which crocheted and quilted items are donated to critically ill children, and Special Olympics activities. Through joint participation by staff and offenders in these worthwhile projects, Women and Family Services hopes to raise the level of awareness of volunteerism and good faith to the community.
Donations: Women and Family Services is frequently contacted regarding donations and freely accepts women's clothing items, scrap material for quilts, crochet yarn, color paper for crafts, children's toys (without metal), religious materials and greeting card donations. To donate items, contact Decatur Correctional Center at 217-877-0353, ext. 422.