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Children of Incarcerated Parents

Gang Involvement Prevention

Preventing youth involvement in gangs is an important issue. Compared to non-gang members, gang members commit a disproportionate amount of violent crimes and offenses across the country. Gangs and gang involvement result in short- and long-term negative outcomes for gang-involved youth, their friends and families, and the surrounding communities.1 Gangs are typically defined as groups having the following characteristics:

  • Formal organizational structure
  • Identifiable leadership
  • Identified territory
  • Recurrent interaction
  • Involvement in serious or violent behavior2

In an effort to replace older adult gang members who are incarcerated, gangs often try to recruit youth.3 Youth often succumb to these efforts at early ages because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics.4  As a result, it is necessary to begin prevention efforts at a young age, identify risk and protective factors for gang involvement, and utilize a comprehensive approach that involves multiple sectors and disciplines working together (e.g., justice, education, labor, social services, public health and safety, businesses, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, and other youth, family, and community-serving groups).5

1 Howell, 1998
2 Howell, 1994
3 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2011
4 FBI, 2011
5 National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, 2011

Mentoring

Positive youth development research has long demonstrated that youth benefit from close, caring relationships with adults who serve as positive role models (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002). Today, 8.5 million youth continue to lack supportive, sustained relationships with caring adults (Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009). Mentoring—which matches youth or “mentees” with responsible, caring “mentors,” usually adults—has been growing in popularity as both a prevention and intervention strategy over the past decades. Mentoring provides youth with mentors who can develop an emotional bond with the mentee, have greater experience than the mentee, and can provide support, guidance, and opportunities to help youth succeed in life and meet their goals (DuBois and Karcher, 2005). Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal with substantial variation, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.

Pregnancy Prevention

Teen pregnancy prevention is a national priority. Despite declines in teen pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S., the national teen pregnancy rate continues to be higher than the rates in other Western industrialized nations.1 Racial and ethnic disparities remain, with higher rates of teen pregnancy for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black adolescents than non-Hispanic white adolescents.2 Teen pregnancy prevention is a major public health issue because it directly affects the immediate and long-term well-being of mother, father, and child. Teen pregnancy and childbirth contribute significantly to dropout rates among high school females, increased health and foster care costs, and a wide range of developmental problems for children born to teen mothers. 3

Addressing teen pregnancy prevention requires broad efforts that involve families, service providers, schools, faith- and community-based organizations, recreation centers, policymakers, and youth. The development and implementation of evidence-based prevention efforts require an understanding of the problem including knowledge of target populations, trends in the rates of teen pregnancy and birth, and the risk and protective factors associated with teen pregnancy. This information can be used to inform decisions—such as choosing which risk and protective factors to focus on—in order to help better guide the effective implementation of evidence-based practices to prevent teen pregnancies. Currently there are a number of initiatives being implemented through the support of the federal government and other organizations to better address the issue of teen pregnancy.  

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; Kost & Henshaw, 2012
2 Kost & Henshaw, 2012
3 CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, 2011

The National Institute of Corrections' Video Visiting Guide

The National Institute of Corrections recently released a guide to address the benefits and challenges of using common video visiting models across a variety of correctional settings.

Violence Prevention

Youth violence is a significant problem that affects thousands of young people each day, and in turn, their families, schools, and communities.1 Youth violence and crime affect a community's economic health, as well as individuals' physical and mental health and well-being. Homicide is the third leading cause of death for youth in the United States.2 In 2016, more than 530,000 young people ages 10-24 were treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained from violence.3

Youth violence typically involves young people hurting other peers. It can take different forms. Examples include fights, bullying, threats with weapons, and gang-related violence. A young person can be involved with youth violence as a victim, offender, or witness.

Youth violence is preventable. To prevent and eliminate violence and improve youth well-being, communities should employ evidence-based, comprehensive approaches that address the multiple factors that impact violence, both factors that increase risk of violence and factors that buffer against risk and promote positive youth development and well-being.

Prevention, intervention, and treatment strategies that are trauma-informed are key. Many youth have experienced traumatic events, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; family and community violence; natural disasters; and the ongoing, cumulative impact of poverty, racism, and oppression. Repeated exposure to traumatic events increases the risk of youth violence. Organizational trauma-informed care that is grounded in an understanding of the causes and consequences of trauma can promote resilience and healing, while reducing youth violence.

Prevention cannot be accomplished by one sector alone. Justice, public health, education, health care (mental, behavioral, medical), government (local, state, and federal), social services, business, housing, media, and organizations that comprise the civil society sector, such as faith-based organizations, youth-serving organizations, foundations, and other non-governmental organizations all need to play a role. In addition, the voices of children, youth, and families who are most affected by violence must be front and center. Collectively, we can prevent and eliminate violence and improve well-being.

Resources

SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach (PDF, 27 pages)
The purpose of this publication, developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is to develop a working concept of trauma and a trauma-informed approach, and to develop a shared understanding of these concepts that would be acceptable and appropriate across an array of service systems and stakeholder groups. This framework is for the behavioral health specialty sectors, but can be adapted to other sectors such as child welfare, education, criminal and juvenile justice, primary health care, and the military.

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions
This webpage, focused on trauma and trauma-informed approaches, is geared towards health, behavioral health and integrated care leadership, staff, and patients/consumers. The information and resources provided can be easily adapted to other groups and settings such as schools.

Shared Framework for Reducing Youth Violence and Promoting Well Being (PDF, 15 pages)
The Shared Framework draws upon previously developed frameworks and models and incorporates the research and programmatic evidence base that the federal, state, and local partners have built over three decades across multiple disciplines. This includes key elements of current and past initiatives—the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, Defending Childhood, and the Community-based Violence Prevention program—and other federal youth violence work of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Administration for Children and Families, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VetoViolence Portal
VetoViolence is CDC’s online source of free violence prevention trainings, tools, and resources.

Violence Reduction Response Center
This VRCC resource from the Bureau of Justice Assistance provides free, timely, direct access to expert staff who can connect users to the most relevant violent crime reduction training and technical assistance. Violence reduction professionals, law enforcement agencies, victims’ groups, and other practitioners in the field can use the VRRC as a one-stop shop to connect to resources that fit their unique needs.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018a
2 CDC, 2018b
2 CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2018

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 results 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 law4 or have questions about child support. 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 links and resources in this youth topic:

For Parents and Caregivers

For Law Enforcement and Corrections Personnel

For School Administration and Teachers

For Child Welfare/Social Work and Clinical Professionals

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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