When a parent is incarcerated, it can be very difficult to remain as involved in their child's life. Children and families dealing with parental incarceration need extra support, especially if a child's welfare is involved. Experiencing a parent’s arrest, or the circumstances leading up to this event, can be traumatic for children and family members.
Loss of Parental Rights
There is a disproportionate rate at which incarcerated parents lose their parental rights, especially among parents of color. This is often the result of a parent’s sentence being longer than the strict placement of timelines with welfare systems. To provide further context, it is generally required that a state files a petition to terminate parental rights once a child has been in the foster care system for fifteen of the prior twenty-two months.
How Children Can be Impacted
Having a parent in prison can impact many parts of a child’s life including their social behaviors, mental health, and educational prospects. Children can face social stigma as the result of having a justice involved parent in addition to experiencing greater risk of poverty and household instability.
Maternal Incarceration versus Paternal Incarceration
An article published by Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Child Welfare and the Criminal System: Impact, Overlap, Potential Solutions, references research on the growing incarceration rates of women and how it is leading to more children having involvement with foster care.
The article states that when a child’s father is incarcerated 90% of children remain with their mother. However, when a mother is incarcerated the outcome is much more disruptive for the children. Only 25% of children go to live with their father and another 50% of children end up living with their grandmother. In cases of short-term removals by the foster system this experience can still have a long-standing impact on children.
Incarcerated Parent-Child Bond
For the benefit of children, as well as their justice-involved parents, there is a clearly identified need to improve services and family access for parents who are incarcerated.
One research study, Parenting and Incarceration: Perspectives on Father-Child Involvement during Reentry from Prison, follows the experiences of 19 fathers upon release from prison to better understand how incarceration shapes parenting. The article discusses how incarceration presents barriers to father-child relationships.
New Life K9s Dedication to Rehabilitation
Promoting awareness and compassion surrounding the many challenges justice-involved individuals face, both while incarcerated and upon release, is important to the New Life K9s team.
Not only is the outcome of this training program highly meaningful to the individuals receiving a service dog, but it is also a unique skill development program and a source of companionship and community development for the inmate handlers.
Rehabilitation programs like NLK9's focus on providing justice involved individuals with opportunities to develop skills that will help them with future employment and a change in mindset. NLK9’s is aware that incarceration deeply impacts justice involved individual’s surrounding social networks - especially an individual’s family members, including their children.
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Amaso, A. (2021, March 24). Child welfare and the criminal system: Impact, overlap, Potential Solutions. Georgetown Law. Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://www.law.georgetown.edu/poverty-journal/blog/child-welfare-and-the-criminal-system-impact-overlap-potential-solutions/
Charles, P., Muentner, L., & Kjellstrand, J. (2019, June). Parenting and Incarceration: Perspectives on father-child involvement during reentry from prison. The Social Service Review. Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33867590/
Children of Incarcerated Parents. Children of Incarcerated Parents | Youth.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/children-of-incarcerated-parents
Hairston, C. (2001, November 30). Prisoners and families: Parenting issues during incarceration. ASPE: Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/prisoners-families-parenting-issues-during-incarceration-0
Hairston, C. F. (1998, September). The forgotten parent: Understanding the forces that influence incarcerated fathers' relationships with their children. Child welfare. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9744076/
National Child Abuse and Neglect Technical Assistance and Strategic Dissemination Center. & Rutgers University--Camden. National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated. (2019). (n.d.). Supporting children and families affected by parental incarceration. Supporting Children and Families Affected by Parental Incarceration - Child Welfare Information Gateway. Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/supporting/support-services/incarceration/