Children of Incarcerated Parents

In the process of assuring victims receive justice and offenders are given an adequate sentence, there is often one group of individuals who receive little thought. And while it may be difficult to think about someone so close to a person who is guilty of a violent crime or considerable theft, it is vital to remember that the children, spouse, parents, and other family members of the offender are simply unfortunate bystanders struggling to make sense of the situation and move on with their own lives.

The family unit, as a whole, may be forced to endure considerable obstacles. However, the children of someone who is serving a prison sentence face particular difficulties. Seldom able to fully comprehend the situation at hand, children may suffer from significant depression, accompanied by a combination of feelings which may include anger, , or abandonment, embarrassment, and isolation from peers. Consequently many children of prisoners go on to become troubled teens, experimenting with drugs, violence and promiscuity, often resulting in numerous consequences ranging from teen pregnancy and increased risk of dropping out of high school to juvenile delinquency and arrest.

Most all children crave love, attention, acceptance, and the approval of those whom they view as important. Subsequently, children who are unable to have these needs met by parents or other adults in their lives will begin to seek other ways in which to meet them. Some children are able to get the emotional support they deeply desire from their teachers or coaches, but most will turn to their peers. This would not pose such an issue were it not for the peer groups with which they associate. There are instances in which children of incarcerated parents become friends with positive peers who can bring out the best in them and completely avoid negative behaviors. However, more often than not, they are befriended by other children who have similarly dysfunctional home lives or behavioral problems.

Although there is likely one parent or a relative caretaker remaining in the home, the financial burden of the incarcerated parent’s absence generally forces them to work longer hours or more than one job, leaving the child to his own devices. Not to mention that children who experience this form of emotional trauma rarely confide

While there is no substitute for a natural parent, many of these children can be helped by child advocates, volunteers and mentors who simply take the time to guide them and provide a positive influence in their lives. In many cases, the mere presence of an adult who cares is enough to prevent destructive behavior or actions that might have serious consequences. A little time and effort from the right person can mean so much.


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