Parental incarceration and the disruption of family relationships can produce negative outcomes for children, including poverty, poor academic performance, aggression, depression, delinquency, and substance abuse. Incarcerated mothers and fathers are unable to work on parenting skills that may be necessary for reunification, and separation interferes with the ability of parent and child to form or maintain a strong attachment.
Family-centered services for incarcerated parents, their children, and families focus on parenting programs, family strengthening activities, nurturing of family relationships, community supports for families during incarceration and following release, and gender-specific interventions. Resources include State and local examples.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 401KB)
Incarceration and CPS Involvement (PDF - 341 KB)
Berger, Cancian, Cuesta, & Noyes (2016)
Fast Focus (24)
Examines the intersection of parental incarceration and child CPS involvement and its influence on parents, children, and families.
Incarceration Tool Kit
Provides activities, tip sheets, and videos for caregivers and professionals to help explain incarceration to children and facilitate communication about children's emotions.
Supporting Fathers and Families Impacted by Incarceration [Webinar]
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (2017)
Offers tips on how fatherhood programs can improve outcomes for incarcerated fathers and their children and families and provides examples of programs helping fathers as they return to their communities after incarceration. The webpage includes links to webinar slides, a transcript, and additional related files.
When a Parent Is Incarcerated: A Primer for Social Workers and Foster Parents
Fostering Perspectives, 20(1)
Provides information for social workers and foster parents on how incarcerated parents and their children can maintain a relationship. The article includes information on visiting and tips for how to make visitation with incarcerated parents as successful as possible.
Working With the Correctional System and Incarcerated Parents [Podcast]
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau (2016)
Presents a podcast that describes the relationship between the child welfare system and those in jail or prison. The podcast includes a discussion on what to know when sending correspondence to someone who is incarcerated, how to coordinate parent-child visits, and more.
Children's Justice Alliance
Seeks to improve outcomes for children whose parents are involved in the criminal justice system and supports initiatives to create systems change and parent leadership in Oregon.
The Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Needs and Responsive Services (PDF - 1731 KB)
General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Joint State Government Commission (2011)
Includes information from research findings on the adverse effects of parental incarceration on children, and then proposed recommendations in the following areas: arrests and judicial proceedings, caregiver and support services, family and corrections interaction, and reentry and reunification.
Foreverfamily, Helping Children of Incarcerated Families
Offers services to children, families, and caregivers affected by parental incarceration in the Atlanta, GA, metropolitan area. Services include after-school programs, community projects, and youth workshops that address the psychological effects of parental incarceration and seek to improve the community.
Provides services and resources in Long Island, NY, to women who are or were incarcerated and their children in order to promote reentry into the community and family reunification.
Service Network for Children of Inmates
Links children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers in Florida with resources from local organizations, including support groups, leadership training, and visitation programs.