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Children of Prisoners/Children of Promise

Arlene F. Lee, Executive Director

Every day adults are arrested or sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Rarely, however, do people stop to consider the impact this has on the children or families in our communities.  When parents are incarcerated their children are often serving time as well. These children are in every community, every school, and every church. Their stories, and their well-being, are important to all of us.

There are many stories about the ways children have braved the incarceration of their parent. Some of the impressive young people that I have met include a Rhodes scholar with adoptive parents who support his relationship with his incarcerated father; a 10 year old living with his grandmother who learned to understand his mother’s cycle of incarceration and addiction; a college graduate who finally felt loved by her father from behind bars; and a teenager in foster care who re-united with her incarcerated mother and found stability together. Each had a different experience but all of them shared one important part of a story: the hardest part was the shame and stigma they felt from their community for something that wasn’t their fault.

We all can contribute to ensuring that children are not paying their parent’s debt to society. All of us can:

  1. Let a child know that it is okay for them to love their parent even if that person is in prison or jail.
  2. Make it clear to friends, family, and colleagues that the child and family are not to be blamed or shamed.
  3. Be a support to the child and the family left behind.
  4. Volunteer at a program that provides services and support.
  5. Volunteer to provide transportation or help a program provide transportation so the child can visit their parent and maintain a relationship.

To learn more about ways you can help, visit the links below:


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