Case Support

Incarcerated Parents Project


Reduce family separation caused by parental incarceration in Washington State to make families and communities safer.



We envision a court system that values family connections and eliminates harm to children, parents, families, and communities without relying upon imprisonment or the destruction of parent-child relationships. 



In Washington State, there are very few ways that sentencing judges can consider the impact of incarceration upon the child’s relationship with their incarcerated parents and the health of their family as a basis to mitigate the sentence to be imposed.   Family law courts and the child welfare system have not always respected arrangements made by incarcerated parents to have their children cared for by loved ones in their absence.    Incarcerated parents are wholly dependent upon caregivers of their children during incarceration to help them parent their children from prison.  State laws currently allow the State and other family members to prevent reunification even after incarceration ends. Incarcerated parents are also at risk of losing their connections to their children forever while incarcerated if those caregivers are not able or are not willing to support the child-parent connection.

This risk of permanent loss intensifies if the child enters the child welfare system.  Incarcerated parents are almost twice as likely as other parents in that system to have their relationship with their children legally severed.  Despite changes to laws, policies, and some practices, this risk of permanent loss of their children continues for incarcerated parents. Significant barriers exist for incarcerated parents in accessing meaningful visits with their children, effective legal representation in all child custody proceedings, and, if needed, social services designed to improve the parent’s ability to care for and provide for their child(ren).   WDA Incarcerated Parents Project (IPP) believes that no parent should face the punishment of losing a child simply because he or she is incarcerated.

Supporting connections between children and their incarcerated parents improves child well-being, improves reunification after parental incarceration, increases family stability, and improves public safety, communities benefit from supporting these children, parents, and  families as well.  To support families experiencing parental incarceration, WDA IPP provides:

  • Technical case assistance, including legal information and referral to parents, families, indigent defenders, and others;
  • Training to court participants and community members;
  • Legal resources; and
  • Advocacy support for policy reforms supporting incarcerated parent-child connections across Washington State.

WDA IPP is a collaboration between the Washington Defender Association (WDA) and Seattle University School of Law (SU) with the support of the University of Washington Law School (UW) and the Washington State Office of Public Defense (State OPD).

D’Adre Cunningham
Incarcerated Parents Project Resource Attorney

If you need WDA IPP case assistance, please contact D’Adre, here:


Telephone: (206) 623-4321