Children of Incarcerated Parents

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Effects on Children of Incarcerated Fathers
Most of the prisons in America are overcrowded. They are overcrowded with men, most of which are fathers and nearly half of these incarcerated fathers were living with their child or children before going to prison. The effects on these children can be detrimental. This can also cause strained relationships with the mothers or other family members doing their best to take care of these children while their father is away. There can be social as well as emotional problems, but luckily there are many states that are trying to accommodate for the parent being gone with programs and camps for these children.

Many social issues occur with a child of an incarcerated father as they grow older. It is common knowledge that if a parent or any caregiver disappears from a child’s life, that child’s attachment to that person will diminish. It is hard to establish a child’s trust and takes time, so if a parent disappears that the child has depended on, it can affect the future of the child. He/she may grow up thinking they cannot get too close to someone, fearing they’ll lose that person. A lot of behavioral problems can also occur in a child. This may happen at home, in school, or in the streets. “Absence of the father is associated more with ‘acting out’ behavior (such as hostility, use of drugs or alcohol, running away, school truancy, discipline problems, aggressive acts and involvement in delinquent activities (Rosenburg 2009).”

Being antisocial is looked at as a list of multiple behaviors that disrupt normalcy. As the child of an incarcerated parent grows to be an adolescent, there may be even more social problems. Now the child is growing up and can get into more trouble for their social deviance. When it comes to getting in trouble, they may use excuses to cause them to get into more trouble. After all, what excuse is better than, “My dad did it?” It is very sad when kids are isolated socially from their peers because of their situation; even when it is not their fault. There was a study done in Oregon with 22 children with incarcerated fathers. Within this group, six children admitted they had no friends and four of these children said other parents would not allow their kids to play with them because there “dad was in jail.” These children grow up with feelings of shame, embarrassment, and mixtures of hope and fears of their relationships with their fathers, which leads them to be treated differently as they grow older. A father being gone in prison is also a huge financial strain on their families. Whether it be from the father having a job (legal or illegal), the family still depends on that income to help support the family. A lot of families need help through Public Aid to get through these difficult times. The family turns to food stamps, medical assistance, and child care assistance.

There are also many emotional issues that occur for a child dealing with a father in prison. Sometimes the child or children stay with another caregiver while their father(s) is/are in prison. It becomes way harder for the mother alone to maintain a household if she has relied on the father for help and support. This can cause emotional problems with the caregiver the child is staying with. There are many kids that are taken care of by their grandparents, other relatives, friends, or even foster care. These kids can become unstable very quickly because if there is no relative to take care of them, they have to immediately be placed in foster care because they become dependents of the juvenile court. They are automatically thrust into a more stable household, but because that is what they are not used to, their personalities become shaky. “The 1980 Federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Reform Act mandate that children who are placed in foster care must either be returned to their parents or placed with long-term guardians within 12-18 months (Hairston 2007).” This gives the...
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