Showing posts from June, 2014

Kids With Parents in Jail Series: Staying Connected

When parents go to jail, children feel lost, insecure, and alone. One way to combat those feelings are to allow the kids to maintain contact through letters, phone calls, or personal visits. While there are very few studies that detail the results of continued contact between children and their incarcerated parents, the general belief is that it is beneficial for both parent and child. Parents benefit by staying part of the family unit which may help them to stay out of trouble when they are released. Children benefit by knowing that even though their parent is in jail, they are still loved. True there are exceptions to maintaining a relationship--abuse and neglect are two of them. But I am not talking about parents who never were parents in the first place. I am talking about allowing children who are not going to be hurt by a connection with their parents being allowed to communicate their thoughts and feelings with their incarcerated parent.
Writing letters is probably the easiest…

Kids With Parents In Jail Series: Can a parent be a parent behind bars?

What happens to a parent's parenting role when he/she goes to jail? How do things change, and is the parent equipped with the parental skills to make this long-distance relationship work? According to a report from The Sentencing Project, 48 percent of incarcerated parents lived with their children before they were sent to jail, and a large majority of those parents are placed in prisons over one hundred miles from their kids. Regardless of why the parent was imprisoned or what type of parent he/she was before incarceration, the kids are now left in the lurch. True, they may live with a family member, but as we've discussed before, the chances of these kids committing a crime and ending up in jail are greatly increased. But, this does not have to be the case. Incarcerated parents can become better parents, and they can make a long distance relationship work if: they get help for their own issues; learn parenting skills; and, get help when they leave jail.
The statistics from …

Kids With Parents In Jail Series: Books for Kids

Children whose parent(s) are in jail need to know they are not alone. One way to accomplish this is to provide books that relate to the child's situation. Here are five books specifically for the child, and three that might help the caregiver help the child.

A Visit to the Big House by Oliver Butterworth was published in 1993. It tells the story of a brother and sister who are worried about visiting their father in jail until they see him.

Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson was published in 2004. It tells the story of a girl, and her mother and how they maintain their relationship while Mom is in prison.

Kofi's Mom by Richard Dyches was published in 2010. This is a story about a little boy whose Mom goes to prison. Lonely and confused, Kofi doesn't know how to express his feelings until his friends help him open up. 

Doogie's Dad is by the same author as Kofi's Mom, Richard Dyches, and was published in 2010 as well. It is on the same order as Kofi, but instead…

Kids With Parents In Jail Series: Skip, Inc.

"Save Kids of Incarcerated Parents" or SKIP, Inc. works through public awareness, advocacy, collaboration and research to help children cope when their parents are in jail. Founded by Mrs. Gloria Jean Canty-Williams in 1976, SKIP was incorporated in Florida in 1980. Since then SKIP has developed chapters in several states to "provide support services to children of incarcerated parents and their families and to increase public awareness."
While researching this series, I found this organization and quickly became a fan when I read how important kids were to them. SKIP views kids as our future, and takes steps to help those kids who need the extra support. What I particularly like about SKIP is their desire to build self-esteem in kids who desperately need it when a parent goes to jail. Instead of kids feeling alone, isolated, worthless, or angry, SKIP offers counseling to work through the anger, and a peer mentor program called "Kids Helping Kids", but, …

Kids With Parents In Jail Series: Sesame Streets's Little Children, Big Challenges

Leave it to Sesame Street to recognize that kids with parents in jail need support, understanding, and a way to communicate their feelings.  The Sesame Workshop is known for educating millions of the world's children, but they are also leaders in helping children deal with a variety of traumas they experience in life. Divorce, Military deployment and Incarcerated Parents are only three of the programs they offer to parents and caregivers. Each program is designed to help children ages 3 to 8 years old talk about their feelings and get the support they need in times of crisis. Their Incarceration Initiative provides free bi-lingual resources for both the parents/caregivers and the child.

While most information available for children with a parent(s) in jail, centers on statistics and studies, this program actually reinforces the specific needs of a child--any child--who feels abandoned. First, and most important, is to make the child feel safe. When a parent goes to jail, even if …