According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are an estimated 2.3 million children living with a parent in some sort of correctional supervision. They also estimate 58% of these children are under the age of 10 years old, therefore the stakes of this issue are high considering the developmental factors of not having one of your parents around could have.
We need to pay attention to the programs our country is giving children with parents incarcerated in the hopes to lower their likelihood of continuing in their parents footsteps, improving their development, and helping younger generations rather than hurting them for others mistakes.
How would you like to be told you’re more likely to go to prison just because your parent(s) did? Or that you are most likely going to perform below average in school due to your parent(s) in prison? Or even that you’re behavioral issues are due to your parents being incarcerated? According to Prison Fellowship, these questions press the children of those incarcerated every day, and we need to do what we can lower their chances of becoming a statistic.
Many programs are already in place to help children feel support from others, yet the biggest gap is their connection to their incarcerated parent- which, if the crime allows, is the best thing to maintain for both the inmate and their child.
The Department of Health and Human Services also states that depending on the quality of the alternative caregiving and the opportunities to remain in contact with the parent that is incarcerated determines how the child react and behave during the separation. Our goal as rehabilitators is to help the child and the incarcerated parent remain in contact as much as possible (if reasonable with crime) in the hopes to allow the child to live and develop smoothly without missing a parental figure.
Many of the programs that are happening today are primarily volunteer based, but many are not. For example, “Angel Tree” is an organization the focuses on Prison Fellowship, bringing parents in prison together with their children through Christmas gifts. It is run through Church organizations, where you can apply as a congregation and each get assigned a child. Then, with an average cost of 15$-25$ per child, they are able to send a Christmas gift in honor of the parent in prison. What this program is doing is filling the gaps that may be left from a parent in prison.
Other volunteer programs promote the connections in prison by recording the parents voices reading books, visitation programs, intervention programs, and others offered depending on the state and prison. We need to make it a priority for these children to remain in contact as much as possible with their incarcerated parents. They need to feel supported in school and their daily lives in such a way that they no longer search for the void they are missing when their parents are away.
The bigger picture here is that one of the best and most reliable solutions to both inmates rehabilitative process as well as their children's smooth transition is to simply keep their relationship alive as much as possible. Lowering the difficulty for families to visit, creating an environment comfortable for children when they do visit, and other areas have room for improvement to help these children.
While their parents are facing time for their own mistakes, why should their children have to suffer as well? We must stop this process of generations suffering for one’s mistake, and help them the one natural way we can- allowing their relationships to thrive while they are separated as much as the law can allow.