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Osborne Association, Buffalo Police Department partner to safeguard children of arrested parents in Buffalo & WNY

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Fri, Feb 26th 2021 11:55 am

AT&T, WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund support Osborne’s work with BPD & community stakeholders to implement child-sensitive policing, strengthen resource networks to safeguard children of arrested parents

The Osborne Association and the Buffalo Police Department announced the Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents Project to develop and enact a child-sensitive policing policy, protocols, and training to minimize the potential trauma for children from parental arrest and other police enforcement activities. A new consortium of WNY youth-serving agencies is advising the project and working to provide trauma-informed follow-up services to children and families.

The innovative training project is funded through a significant contribution from AT&T and an implementation grant from the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo through its “Moving Forward Together” initiative. Together, these grants will allow Osborne’s Buffalo FamilyWorks program and the Buffalo Police Department to address the harmful impact of a parent’s arrest on children and families.

A press release stated, “Police officers are in a unique position to reduce the potential trauma to children present during an arrest – a life-altering experience that may well be the worst day of their lives. For the last six months, Osborne has worked with community stakeholders, government agencies, area nonprofits, and local law enforcement to assess community needs and develop child sensitive arrest policies. Osborne and the Buffalo Police Department will now work to train and support more than 750 officers and staff in these child-sensitive protocols.”

The project will also establish a safe and friendly space for police officers to take children while locating and waiting for a caregiver, connect affected families to support services, and document the development and implementation of these trainings as a tool for ongoing technical assistance and to provide a model for other law enforcement agencies.

This project includes key partnerships including Voice Buffalo, a local faith-based social justice organization, to do outreach and conduct restorative listening circles for young people and adults who have been affected by parental arrest and incarceration. In addition, Osborne is partnering with the University at Buffalo Institute of Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (UB-ITTIC) to offer police officers classroom training and ongoing coaching.

“Osborne thanks the Buffalo Police Department for partnering with us to support the wellbeing of children of arrested parents. Low-income communities and communities of color in Western New York bear the disproportionate impact of the overlapping crises of COVID-19, poor long-term health outcomes, and arrest practices that can harm children and families,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, president and CEO of the Osborne Association. “We are grateful to AT&T and the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund for recognizing the possibility of this project to support children and families and strengthen this vibrant community.”

The project is coordinated by Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney for Western New York who previously served as director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she worked with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Osborne Association to develop a model protocol for child-sensitive arrest practices.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Osborne, the Buffalo Police Department, local youth-serving agencies, and the community to implement child sensitive policing practices here in Buffalo,” O’Donnell said. “Ultimately, we aim to change the way police and other agencies in WNY respond to children affected by parental arrest and incarceration. We are forging stronger cross-sector partnerships, working to reduce trauma for children and families, embed community policing principles in day-to-day policing operations, avoid negative encounters with police, and build greater community trust in law enforcement.”

In supporting this project’s development and implementation, Byron Lockwood, commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department, said, “The Buffalo Police Department expresses our full support for Osborne’s project to develop policies and protocols to protect children if it is necessary to arrest their parent. We look forward to working in partnership with Osborne as they gather community input, develop these new protocols, and create partnerships with community-based organizations who are best positioned to provide services to children and families. We support this work to implement arrest policies and training in Western New York to reduce trauma and negative outcomes for children who are impacted in these situations, and strengthen community trust in the police.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "My administration and the Buffalo Police Department look forward to being part of the Osborne Association's efforts to create a model to safeguard local children who are present during the arrest of a parent or caregiver, a segment of our population that faces unique problems and vulnerabilities As the City of Buffalo continues its work to be a leader in equity and social justice policing initiatives, this is another way our officers can support community members. I thank the Osborne Association for selecting the City of Buffalo for this innovative program and I thank AT&T for once again stepping up to be a community partner in support of this effort. I also thank WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund for its financial support of this program."

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president/CEO of Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, said, “In addition to addressing immediate needs in our community, the philanthropic community has come together through the Western New York COVID-19 Community Response Fund ‘Moving Forward Together’ initiative to fund innovative, collaborative solutions to long-standing systemic challenges. We commend this partnership between the Osborne Association, the Buffalo Police Department, and the UB Trauma Institute, along with other community partners, to develop police protocols, training and resource networks to safeguard children when a parent is arrested. We look forward to seeing the impact of this powerful collaboration, which is sure to serve as a model for other police departments in the WNY region and beyond.”

AT&T New York President Amy Kramer said, “AT&T is proud to collaborate with the Osborne Association to implement this innovative community-focused training program with the Buffalo Police Department, and we applaud all of the partners involved for working together to help strengthen our community. This contribution is part of AT&T’s effort to address societal needs, racial inequities and social justice by supporting organizations that are making meaningful and equitable change in communities across our state and our nation.”

In addition, AT&T supports Osborne Association’s FamilyWorks program, which provides free video visiting from its offices in New York City, Newburgh and Buffalo for those who have incarcerated loved ones.

The press release noted, “The program offers a welcoming and supportive space for families to stay connected via video, offering supports to maintain and strengthen relationships throughout a family member’s incarceration, which plays a key role in a person’s successful reentry.”

AT&T’s support provides funding and resources for in-person visits in the future once it is safe to do so.

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