March 20, 2019 In Advovacy, Family Rights

Advocating for the Children Affected by Incarceration

It is estimated that nearly 10 million children have parents who have been imprisoned at some point during their lives (Hairston, 2003). 2.7 million Children under the age of 18 have a parent in prison or jail, according to sociologists Bruce Western and Becky Petit. Simply stated, the growing number of children with an incarcerated parent represents one of the most significant collateral consequences of the recorded prison population in the US (Mauer, Nellis, Schirmir, 2009). Incarceration is one of the least effective and most expensive public safety strategies, yet the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

The most damaging effect of parental incarceration on a child, is that other negative factors combine to increase the likelihood of a child actually becoming an inmate in the future (Edmonds, 2012). Thus, the harm associated with parental incarceration can compound the already difficult circumstances of vulnerable children. Parental incarceration and its effects on children have received little attention from scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. Families affected by an incarcerated parent remained largely invisible. Far too many studies show, that children of incarcerated parents face severe developmental challenges that, if we do not address, can lead to lifelong issues, and the likelihood that they, themselves may one day be incarcerated.

Over 93,000 children are currently locked up in juvenile correctional facilities around the country. Research shows that while up to 34 percent of children in the United States have experienced at least one traumatic event, between 75 and 93 percent of youth entering the juvenile justice system annually in this country are estimated to have experienced some degree of trauma (Healing Invisible Wounds, 2010). Incarceration breaks up families, the building blocks of our communities and nation. It creates an instable environment for children that can have lasting effects on their development and well-being (A Shared Sentence, 2016).

Advocates For Stronger Families was founded to advocate for children left behind by incarceration and to provide support services for the children, their caregivers, and incarcerated parents, with the goal of strengthening and empowering the families. Advocates For Stronger Families uses creative arts as an holistic approach, to help children deal with the trauma and loss of an incarcerated parent. We are dedicated to helping children overcome the shame and stigma of having a parent incarcerated.

Something to think about…
Glenn Kinnard-Brown, MS

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