Expanding early childhood services for incarcerated moms

Cook County Sheriff’s Office partners with the Ounce on innovative program

The road to motherhood now comes with more support for an underserved population — expectant mothers who have been incarcerated or are on electronic monitoring and primarily reside in communities in the South and West Sides, thanks to a new partnership between Cook County Sherriff’s Office and the Ounce.

Launched as a pilot serving a few neighborhoods across Chicago, the voluntary program provides pregnant women who have been briefly detained with access to a doula and/or home visitor services located in their communities.

“Home visiting helps improve developmental trajectories for at-risk children by supporting strong parent-child relationships. This pilot brings home visiting services to a particularly vulnerable population that might not otherwise find their way to them because they are cut off from the usual referral sources,” said Mark Valentine, director, Illinois Birth to Three Institute.

As the program gets off the ground, the Ounce and sheriff’s office continue to work together to evaluate program needs, criteria, and search for cases of potential participants who will be returning home, since the program is reliant on the mother being present to contribute to the healthy development of her child.