According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parents. This accounts for 1 out of every 28 children, which is up from 1 in 125 children in the mid-1980s. The report states that having a parent incarcerated hurts children educationally and financially. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates have minor children.
Incarceration splits up families, so it is important that we talk about the effect it has on children and not just on the individual serving time. Children of incarcerated parents may experience anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, survivor guilt and other behavior issues. They may have trouble with sleep and difficulty concentrating.
Last December, Pacific Reentry Career Services attended "Children of Incarcerated Parents: Trauma, Toxic Stress and Protections, the 2016 summit put on by Friends Outside of Los Angeles County. The event helped shine a light on the necessity of recognizing the effects of incarceration on children whose parents are locked up. While our work here at Pacific Reentry Career Services focuses on helping clients find employment following release, we also recognize that supporting families is an important part of our work for anyone in the reentry field. Many of those released are parents, and having a stable job with a steady income is an important part of supporting a family. For those supporting children, we have listed some useful resources below.
Families & Criminal Justice
The mission of Families & Criminal Justice is the prevention of intergenerational crime and incarceration. Families & Criminal Justice is based in Los Angeles and has programs for incarcerated parents as well as for the children of incarcerated parents. Their website includes a useful list of publications for those wanting to read more on the effects of incarceration on families.
Friends Outside of Los Angles County
Friends Outside provides no-cost services in English and Spanish. They have a number of programs that include family communication support, family events, support groups, transportation assistance and more. They can also help coordinate supervised visits between qualifying incarcerated parents and their children who have an open case with the Department of Children and Family Services, and they prepare children and their caregivers for visits.
POPS The Club
POPS The Club started at Venice High School in 2013 and has since expanded to other schools in California and Minnesota. This organization establishes clubs for high school students experiencing the Pain of Our Prison System (POPS) through having an incarcerated parent. The clubs provide emotional and community support for participants. They also publish the writing and artwork of participants. Plans are in the works to start clubs at more schools.
Root & Rebound "Family & Children Toolkit"
Root & Rebound recently released their "Family & Children Toolkit: A Primer for Families Supporting their Loved One's Reentry." This guide goes through things friends and families can do to help their loved one before and after release. There are also tips for rebuilding relationships following release, information on family reunification and details about how therapy can help.
Sesame Streets Toolkit for Young Children
Sesame Street has created an excellent resource for young children of incarcerated parents. The kit includes a DVD and booklet for children, and it includes information for caregivers on how to talk to young children about incarceration. The materials are in both English and Spanish.
If your organization supports the children of incarcerated parents, and you would like to be listed here, please contact us.