Fact: About 15-20% of children entering the child welfare system have an incarcerated parent. (Johnson-Peterkin, 2003)
With an estimated 25,000 children and youth in South Florida living in a household with at least one parent in prison or jail, the Children of Inmates program ensures that this hidden population – often stigmatized by shame and emotional trauma caused by disrupted family life – are well cared for and supported in their development by responsible adults, caring professionals and a community that is sensitive to their special needs.
Because parental incarceration can have a severe impact on a child’s mental health, social behavior and educational prospects, the Children of Inmates program is designed to counteract potential negative outcomes through a coordinated system of supports.
Agape is a partner within the Service Network of Children of Inmates, a South Florida collaboration of faith-based and professional agencies committed to helping children with an incarcerated parent develop resilience, and provide their caregivers with support as they bear numerous burdens, including struggling with the challenges of fostering continued relationships with the incarcerated adult.
Within the Service Network of Children of Inmates, our counselors visit children and their incarcerated parents regularly to provide counseling and case management services. In-home visits help assess family life and address additional challenges that may reverberate and multiply in their often low-income neighborhoods, especially if they live in a community where a significant number of residents are in or returning from jail or prison. Therapeutic intervention further addresses the social norms conducive to activities that result in a punitive sentence, which is key to ameliorating the cyclical pattern of intergenerational incarceration.
Acknowledging research that supports preserving a child’s relationship with a parent during incarceration and the resulting benefits for both parties, once a quarter, our counselors facilitate visits with children and their offending parent. This element of the program is essential in nurturing the parent/child relationship during incarceration and assists with reunification and readjusting to life after prison when the parental role resumes.
With the vast majority of child participants living in high-poverty neighborhoods and single-parent households that are typically struggling to make ends meet, programming includes monthly recreational field trips and spending time doing activities of interest to the child.
Through both simplistic and therapeutic methods, we spread love and support, comforting and guiding Children of Inmates, and helping families cope with the incarceration of a loved one.