Speaking of Women's Rights: People can change... and families reunite!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

People can change... and families reunite!

by Alise Hegle 
with Lillian Hewko

My name is Alise Hegle. I am in absolute support of SHB 1284l. I am a formerly incarcerated mother who was facing a 7 year prison sentence at the time of my daughter’s birth where she was immediately placed in foster care. I know firsthand the fear experienced with not knowing the outcome of my child’s future. While I was in jail, I knew I had a court date coming up, but had no idea what was going on in my daughter’s case. I sent approximately 70 kites, which is a way to communicate with the jail staff, with no response. I had no money to make outside phone calls and no contact with my attorney or social worker during this time. The CPS case I had with my daughter was almost fast-tracked through the system because of the current timeline that is in place and because no one knew what the outcome of my criminal case was going to be. In my case, I was lucky. My dependency judge noticed that I should be present and ordered me to be transported to the courtroom. I was then able to inform the court that I received an opportunity to go to residential treatment instead of prison. When I graduated treatment, my daughter was 11 months old and I had never received visitation during treatment, making it difficult to prove my rights and establish bonds upon release. Luckily, I was able to embrace the court-ordered services that were in place and prove that I was the best fit for my daughter.

When my daughter turned 17 months old, she was in my care full time.  I worked very hard to turn my life around and I am grateful that my daughter wakes up every morning and sees her mother which serves to provide a positive path for her future. Through this journey, I am now the Program Lead for King County Superior Courts Parents for Parents Program. We work with families whose children are involved with Child Protective Services. I am able to be a part of the solution today because I was provided the opportunity to reunify with my daughter. I see on a daily basis that people can change and families can reunite. I recognize in my case I was given the necessary time to prove myself and I see some families who are not provided with this opportunity. If the dependency timeline could be delayed, many other incarcerated parents or parents in treatment centers like I was in, will have the opportunity to turn their life around and work towards reunification. This would benefit society because I know if I lost rights to my daughter the chance of me turning my life around would be very slim. I would not be a productive member of society like I am today. I am a straight A student working on my Bachelor Degree. Please hear my voice that people CAN change, and families CAN reunite!”

SHB 1284 will provide the court the guidance and discretion necessary to help reduce the chances that incarcerated parents and parents in residential substance abuse programs will permanently lose rights to their children. Currently, our Senate is considering amending SHB 1284 to only extend to incarcerated and previously incarcerated parents and not parents who are in residential substance abuse programs. However, as Alise’s story shows us, we cannot give up on parents who are touched by addiction in our communities.

Residential substance abuse treatment programs have been funded by our federal government since for most individuals, treatment and recovery work best in a community based, coordinated system of comprehensive services. Allowing parents in treatment to receive family support is invaluable as studies have shown that individuals charged with crimes who completed treatment were far less likely to end up back in prison than those who did not get services. Studies have also shown that when treatment is combined with parental support, family reunification increases. Please take the time to tell the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee members why they must keep parents in residential substance abuse programs included in the bill.

Action Needed:
We need help getting SHB 1284 out of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee! Write an email to each of the Human Services and Corrections committee members asking them to support SHB 1284:



Make a public comment (1000 character limit) on the bill

Sample Email/Comment:
Dear Mr. Chair and Committee Members,

I am writing in support of SHB 1284. I believe that incarcerated parents, parents in residential substance abuse treatment programs and their children need a more fair chance to work toward reunification. We need to allow time, when necessary, to find safe permanency options that do not involve severing familial ties forever.

[Add personal story, if applicable, for your support].

I encourage you not to amend the bill as it applies to parents in residential substance abuse treatment. Please include these parents, since treatment combined with parental support in child welfare cases has been linked to increased family reunification. Increased family reunification has been linked to reduced recidivism and reduced chances of inter-generational incarceration. For these reasons, please support SHB 1284.


Alise Hegle is the Program Lead for the King Count Parents for Parents Program, when she is not working she enjoys family time with her fiancĂ© and 4 year old daughter Rebekah, particularly feeding the ducks and having fun at the beach. She is an active member of her church. She is obtaining her bachelor’s in Applied Behavioral Science and plans to continue on to receive a master’s degree in public administration. One-day she hopes to succeed in taking her family horseback riding.