The number of incarcerated parents in the United States has been rising since the early 1970s. Today half of the inmates in state and federal prisons are mothers and fathers. Parental incarceration has a myriad of adverse effects on children. Besides breaking the parent-child bond, incarceration of a parent interferes with financial child support. These effects, among many other negative impacts, disrupt child development.
Eventually, the absence of parents exposes their children to abuse. They have to cope with the psychological trauma of having their parents imprisoned. Their performance at school is also adversely affected. Moreover, social stigma makes the children feel ashamed of their unfortunate situation and may lead to depression and anxiety.
In order to maintain a strong parent-child bond, prisons allow children to visit their parents frequently or reside within the prison. However, the child may have negative feelings towards the police or the criminal justice system. Incarceration of parents may also make the children develop low self-esteem, withdraw from family and friends, and become unable to withstand stress.
The effects of incarceration of parents do not spare the government either. It has to provide resources for adoption, foster care, and education.
Such challenges make the children more likely to develop or engage in crimes compared to others.
Program to support children of incarcerated parents
Most state and federal prisons have initiatives aimed at supporting children of incarcerated parents. Such initiatives target the needs of both parties, support, and welfare of children. An example of these initiatives is in prison parent-child support initiative. This initiative entails educating the parents, allowing them to visit their incarcerated parents regularly and, if need be, residing in the prisons.
The New York Initiative for Children of Incarcerated Parents, NYCIP is a government initiative that partners with private and other government agencies to support parent-child relationships and protect children’s rights.
NYCIP also provides advocacy, training, information, and research services to professionals, young people, and families of the incarcerated.
Incarceration of a parent has far-reaching effects on the child. First, it disrupts the parent earnings. And if the incarcerated persons were the sole breadwinner, child support goes down, leading to a low standard of living. Furthermore, the parent-child relationship is affected when the parent is imprisoned.
Due to the above challenges, children of incarcerated parents experience psychological trauma, develop withdrawal symptoms, and affect their performance at school.