According to a a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts (2010), more than 2.7 million children in the United States have a parent in prison or jail. I’m a mom of 4 of those children.
My kids are fortunate. They have a tremendous support group that surrounds our family–consisting of church, school and community friends. No, it hasn’t been easy for them. They have suffered deep loss and grief. But we have much–so much–to be grateful for. We are well.
But many children do not have the support that my children have had. They often face being shuffled from home to home. There are several studies that show that children of inmates have high school dropout rates. Many children with a parent–sometimes both–in prison often turn to crime themselves.
I recently did some research on resources for children of incarcerated parents for a project I’ve begun. In my search, I was disappointed to find that truly there just isn’t much out there. The bigger cities in a state may have a program for these children (see Richmond, VA’s Milk and Cookies Program). But, on the whole, this segment of the population is underserved.
Because this is a situation that has touched my family’s life, I’d like to be able to help other families in this situation. Below is a list of websites that I have collected during my research and saved in my Evernote file. I hope to add to this list in the future.
- Children of Prisoner’s Library: Provides several online pamphlets for both Caregivers and Healthcare Providers
- Books to Read with Children of Prisoners: Here is a great list of books that you can read with the child who has a parent in prison.
- Books for Teens with an Incarcerated Parent: Here is a list of books for teens that features a character who has a parent in prison.
- StoryBook Project: My youngest daughter participated in this when their father was housed in the local jail. Volunteers would tape him reading a book. The volunteer would then mail my daughter the book and the tape. This would be an easy project for churches to get involved in.
- Mentoring Children of Prisoners: Hampton Roads
- Camps for Children of Inmates
- Parenting Inside Out: Parenting Inside Out (PIO) is an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral parent management skills training program created for incarcerated parents through a six-year collaboration of scientists, policy makers, practitioners, and instructional designers. Both the information in the program and the way that information is presented were informed by knowledge derived from research and practice.
- Loving Through Bars: Children with Parents in Prison: A book by Cynthia Martone that examines this sociological issue and a call to action for this often over-looked problem
- Service Network for Children of Inmates: More than 15,000 children in Miami have a parent in prison or jail. The incarceration of parents has severe, unseen consequences for children who are often left confused and uncertain about their future. Our network of faith-based and professional organizations coordinates services to strengthen the bond between children and their imprisoned parents and mitigate the trauma caused by the separation.
- Children of Prisoners: Innocent and at Risk: It is estimated that 1.7 million children in the United States have a father or mother behind prison bars. Even though these children have done nothing wrong, they are frequently stigmatized by shame, poverty and family instability. As a result, these children often suffer poor school performance and behavioral and emotional problems.When I left for prison, my 5-year-old daughter didn’t understand any of the legal aspects. All she knew was that one day I was there and the next day I disappeared from her life. She felt abandoned.
- The Richmond Herald Sun At the Richmond City Jail in Virginia, a nonprofit group for girls and a sheriff came together to do right by the city’s daughters. Multiple media outlets in Virginia have covered the recent father-daughter dance at the jail, and it’s worth noting here, too. The dads at the dance were nonviolent offenders. The daughters were simply daughters who wanted to spend time with their fathers. (Here’s an Article done by Prison Ministry Fellowship about that dance)
- POPS The Club : There needs to be more resources like this–there are several resources for elementary-aged children who have an incarcerated parent, but much fewer for high school students. POPS focuses on the high-school-aged set, providing them a safe group to be a part of, made of their peers who are in similar life situations. Located in California, but with plans to go nation-wide. Visit their website–some great articles there as well.
- Prison Ministries Fellowship : While this is a ministry that focuses around prisoners themselves, they are the ones that provide the Angel Tree ministry that provides Christmas gifts to children of inmates. I was also very moved that they emailed me this year and asked how they might be able to pray for our family this Easter Season. A Great organization.
- The Messages Project : Since 1999, the Messages Project has visited state prisons across the United States several times a year to create videos from incarcerated parents to their children. The recordings are mailed to children and families, often with a book or poems and hand-written messages that may have been read while filming. Some of the messages have even gone international. ***Note: They are currently filming at facilities within an hour or so of the Virginia Beach Area. If you live in this area, this would be a great opportunity for you to make a difference in a child’s and in an inmate’s life.
- The Hope House : Hope House began in 1998 providing cutting edge programs to strengthen families and, in particular, the relational bonds between children and their fathers imprisoned far from home. In addition our goals include reducing the isolation, stigma, shame and risk these families experience when fathers and husbands are imprisoned, and to raise public awareness about this most at-risk population. One of their outstanding programs is an actual camp for children with incarcerated parents. During the day, they enter the prison and do “camp” activities with their parent, and at night they go camping somewhere outside of the facility. Other programs across the nation are taking a look at this ground-breaking program and are considering implementing similar camping initiatives of their own.
- Genesis 5020 : National Proponent for Children of Incarcerated Parents: I’m really excited about this new site. It’s the most comprehensive resource website I’ve found supporting children who have a parent or parents in prison. It covers resources in all 50 states. Genesis 50:20 reads: “So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
- Amachi : Amachi is a nationwide program that seeks to match of children who have a parent incarcerated with a mentor. It is a faith-based initiative that seeks to help prevent these precious children from following the same paths that have led to their parent’s incarceration. Amachi is a Nigerian Ibo word that means “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child.”
- Ava’s Grace : In my search for college resources for children with incarcerated parents, I’ve had very little luck. Applying to college can be daunting for a CIP. Ava’s Grace is the only organization I have found that is providing scholarships for these children as well as assistance in applying to college. At this point they are only available for children in Missouri.
- Willy The Plumber Scholarship : Here’s another scholarship fund for children of inmates. I love the name! The scholarship fund is set up for children of incarcerated parents in Utah. This foundation appears to be in the early stages of forming, but it looks like they are off to a great start.
- Our Children’s Place : Located in Chapel Hill, NC, Our Children’s Place seeks to be an advocate and educational resource that focuses on children with incarcerated parents. Their website contains a great list of books written for children who have a loved one in prison or who know someone who does. They also have an excellent list of resources and links for those seeking help or more information.
- Children of Promise, NYC : This is an organization in Brooklyn (New York) that provides a wide variety of services for children with incarcerated parents. After-school programs, mentoring, supportive services for caregivers, and what really sounds great–a summer camp for children who have a parent that is incarcerated.
- Global Network for Equality: This is an NGO in India. I include it here because I literally get hits from all over the world from people searching for some sort of support for children with incarcerated parents. Global Network provides residential care, scholarships, psycho-social support and several other programs in assist those in need of them. I’m not familiar with the state of children with incarcerated parents in India, but I do plan to do a bit more research.
- Hour Children : Hour Children was founded over 25 years ago in Long Island City, New York. I love what they have to say about the three most important hours in regards to a mother’s incarceration: “the hour of their mother’s arrest, the hour of their visit, and the hour of her release.” This organization provides a wide range of services for children and mothers as well, with a vision to end the cycle of inter-generational incarceration.
- Adullam House : Located near Montgomery, Alabama, this ministry takes my breath away. Directly from the website they state: Adullam House is a safe haven for the children of incarcerated parents. Without intervention, many face the risk of repeating the terrible cycle and ending up as inmates themselves. Raising them up in the Gospel of Christ and the love of their Creator is the only way out.” Check out their story, their children and their facilities. You’ll be amazed. It would be fantastic to see a ministry like this in each state and in every country.
- Project WHAT! : I love the creativity of this program that provides youth-led training through California and several other states. This seems to be a program for children of incarcerated parents led by those who know the situation best–other children with incarcerated parents. They also provide a comprehensive Guide for Teens with a Parent in Prison or Jail, employment opportunities for teens with incarcerated parents as well as a rare scholarship fund.
- Children of Incarcerated Parents Bill of Rights : This is a great resource provided by the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Program. Excellent resource to read over and discuss when beginning or evaluating a ministry or program to reach out to children who have a parent in prison.
- Children of Prisoners Europe : A fantastic resource not only for Europe, but with great resources that can be used across the globe. I particularly appreciate their Bibliography list for academics, caregivers, families and for children themselves. If you know of a child or caregiver of a child in Europe with a father or mother who is incarcerated, this is a great place to start.
- Action for Prisoner’s Families : This is another resource from the UK, but has great stuff for any caregiver or family member of a prisoner. They specialize in a unique blend of providing support both to the families of prisoners as well as to the organizations and professionals who work with those families to support them. All sorts of tremendous resources here: Downloads, publications, plus forums for support.
- Jonah’s Journey : Jonah’s Journey is a ministry of Christian caregivers who provide temporary or long-term care for children of mothers who are incarcerated or unable to care for them for any number of reasons. I love their ministry model for so many reasons. They are located in TN and can be contacted through their website.
- Little Light Ministries : Little Light Ministries is a ministry in Oklahoma, and looks to be primarily located in the region of Oklahoma City. I love what they are doing for children who have a parent who currently is or has been incarcerated–they are providing school for these children. A safe environment where they can be loved, nurtured and have their unique needs met, while also having the security of not being the only one in school with an incarcerated parent. Each child works at his or her own pace on an individualized track that helps them to attain educational goals. They also employ the use of therapy dogs–I love that. Definitely a resource to share with those in need in this area, or to give to financially so that they can continue to provide the educational and social care their students need.
- One Day with God Camp : Located in several states, this ministry is providing children a chance to play with their incarcerated mom or dad on the grounds of the prison where their parent is located, under careful and watchful care of volunteer mentors and leaders, who provide all sorts of fun activities for the parents and children, including arts and crafts and typical camp games. The focus is to reinforce healthy connections between children and their incarcerated parents where appropriate, providing parenting training for the parents, as well as an aim to reduce both recidivism and to fight the stats that say a child who has a parent that is incarcerated is more likely to be incarcerated themselves as opposed to a child without an incarcerated parent.
- Parents Sharing Books : Wisconsin: This is a books program sponsored and facilitated by the Literacy Volunteers of Chippewa Valley. Parents who are incarcerated are filmed reading books, and then the DVD and book is sent to the child of that parent. Contact them for more information.
- The Place 4 Grace : California: Provides services such as a father/son camp behind bars, family holiday programs, the Father2Child Literacy program, and a fantastic mentoring program for children with an incarcerated parent.
- 4-H Life: Currently in the state of Missouri, but will be expanding to other states in the upcoming months. 4-H Life takes traditional 4-H activities into prisons. 4-H has always done an excellent job at promoting leadership, life and decision-making skills. Here’s what their website says:
- The 4-H LIFE family club meeting takes place monthly during visitation at the correctional center. Children, their incarcerated parents, and caregivers work together on traditional 4-H activities such as arts and crafts, demonstrations and other curricula-based activities focused on topics such as communication, decision-making, and problem solving. Working together as a family on 4-H activities gives children an opportunity to show their parents their ability and intellect. It also gives the parents an opportunity to show their children that they can provide capable and caring parental guidance.
- Children’s Literacy Foundation: CLiF hosts a literacy program for children with a parent in prison in Vermont and New Hampshire. Parents are taught the importance of literature for children in a workshop, and then they are filmed reading a children’s book. The DVD and book is then mailed to their child.
- New Hope Oklahoma : Well organized, well-done non-profit serving children with incarcerated parents in Oklahoma. Provides camp, retreats, after-school programs and holiday parties. I love that this organization fosters long-term relationships with the children they provide services to; not just a one-time interaction. They follow these kids as they grow, doing what they can to foster good decisions and support for their future.
- Tele-Story (Brooklyn) : In April 2014 BPL set aside a room in the Central Library for children who wish to read books with their incarcerated parents through a live video feed. These visits are designed to foster stronger bonds between parent and child through the act of reading and telling stories together in a neutral, welcoming community setting. All visits are free of charge and aim to supplement, not replace, in person visits.
- Central Oregon Partnerships for Youth: Provides mentors for children with an incarcerated parent for the Central Oregon region.
- Echoes of Incarceration: This is a documentary initiative produced by children who have a parent that is incarcerated. If you’ve ever wanted to see the world through the eyes of these children, this is a good way to do so. The project overall seeks to empower and support these children as well as increase awareness of the challenges these children face.
- Sesame Street: I am very pleased that Sesame Street is taking on the issue of children with incarcerated parents. They have developed a Sesame Street film that deals with the things surrounding having an incarcerated parent, at a level that children can understand. They will be giving these films to therapists, schools and prisons to use. CBS did a fantastic piece on the film, which I’ve added below:
Meet Mia. Jim Liske relives his visit to a chaotic neighborhood where he met a brave little girl full of potential.
Fathers For Life Video:
Raising Children in Prison
The Messages Project: I can’t say enough about this program. It’s tremendous.