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Services & Supports

Services and Supports for Children and Families

To counteract potential negative outcomes as a result of the experience of children of incarcerated parents,1 it is important that communities create a coordinated system of supports for children of prisoners and their incarcerated parents.

In addition to the targeted supports related to traumatic experiences; exposure to violence, drugs, and alcohol; and involvement in the child welfare system, children with incarcerated parents should be given opportunities to talk about their feelings, ask questions about the legal process their parent is going through, and be included in planning reentry activities so that they can have some control over the way the parent will be reintroduced into the family.

Children can also benefit from having a mentor while their parent is incarcerated. In these situations, it is essential that the mentor receive specialized training for working with children of incarcerated parents and that the parent understand the role of the mentor and how the relationship might continue with the child once the parent is released. Listen as Chardae describes the important role her mentor played in her life and learn more about mentoring by viewing the mentoring youth topic.

Services provided to parents while in prison, such as parenting programs, family-strengthening activities during which children visit with their incarcerated parents, and transportation to help children see their parents while in prison, can help children remain connected with their parents and provide parents with the opportunity to interact positively with their children in a structured and supported environment.


The Antisocial Behavior of the Adolescent Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Developmental Perspective
The Antisocial Behavior of the Adolescent Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Developmental Perspective, discusses the link between parent incarceration and antisocial behavior in adolescents, how it develops overtime, why this issue is important to address, and how to address it.

Effects of Parental Incarceration on Young Children
Effects of Parental Incarceration on Young Children,  addresses the reactions of children with incarcerated parents, as well as: ways of modifying those effects, programs that can help both the parent and the child, how to adopt a whole family approach and why this discussion should inform research and policy issues.

National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated
This website provides a range of information and resources to assist children and families of the incarcerated, including:

  • research publications,
  • training materials,
  • fact sheets,
  • frequently asked questions documents,
  • and more.

Resilience Booster: Parent Tip Tool
This tool was developed to help parents develop resilience in their children, which can prepare them to face and overcome negative experiences throughout life. The tool provides information for fostering resilience in the home, the neighborhood and community, the child care environment, and at school. The tool can be viewed on the American Psychological Association website or downloaded as a PDF (PDF, 4 pages).

A Toolkit for Working With Children of Incarcerated Parents
This web-based training toolkit from the Children’s Bureau provides practitioners with the skills required to respond to the needs of children whose parents are in prison or have a history of incarceration.

  • Helpful Hints for Practitioners
  • The Children and Families of Incarcerated Parents Initiative in Washington State: Central Points
  • Free Online Training Video for Social Service Practitioners: Summary
  • Handouts for Practitioners, Families, and Caregivers
  • Reading Lists and Videos for Children, Caregivers, and Providers
  • Research and Information for Providers
  • Children of Incarcerated Parents: Bill of Rights
  • Beyond the Walls: A Guide to Services for Families Affected by Incarceration
  • Visitation Procedures and Inmate Locators for Prisons and Jails

When a Parent Is Incarcerated
Developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and featured on the Children's Bureau's website, this guide provides information to public child welfare agencies and caseworkers on working with incarcerated parents and their children. Goals of the primer include familiarizing child welfare professionals with the impact of incarceration and providing information to child welfare and correctional systems to help improve permanency outcomes for children.

1 La Vigne et al., 2008; GAO, 2011; CDC, 2013; Phillips & Gleeson, 2007


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