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Children of Incarcerated Parents

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Children of Incarcerated Parents

Having a parent in prison can have an impact on a child’s mental health, social behavior, and educational prospects.1 The emotional trauma that may occur and the practical difficulties of a disrupted family life can be compounded by the social stigma that children may face as a result of having a parent in prison or jail.2 Children who have an incarcerated parent may experience financial hardship that result from the loss of that parent’s income.3 Further, some incarcerated parents face termination of parental rights because their children have been in the foster care system beyond the time allowed by law.4 These children require support from local, state, and federal systems to serve their needs.

Children of incarcerated parents may also face a number of other challenging circumstances. They may have experienced trauma related to their parent’s arrest or experiences leading up to it.5 Children of incarcerated parents may also be more likely to have faced other adverse childhood experiences, including witnessing violence in their communities or directly in their household or exposure to drug and alcohol abuse.6 For more information and resources on these overlapping problems, please see the additional Children of Incarcerated Parents links and resources.

1 La Vigne, Davies, & Brazzell, 2008
2 La Vigne et al., 2008
3 General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2011
4 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), 2011
5 La Vigne et al., 2008
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013; Phillips & Gleeson, 2007

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Did You Know?

The FIRC Subcommittee on Children of Incarcerated Parents and the American Institutes for Research will present a webinar on September 24 on the prevalence of children with incarcerated parents, tips for addressing the needs of these youth, and how to use collaboration, focused assistance, and advocacy to contribute to positive outcomes.


The National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families will present a webinar on September 23 exploring the challenges faced by incarcerated families and ex-offenders during the reentry process and the importance of providing healthy relationship services to incarcerated inmates and their families.