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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children

Of the more than 1.5 million parents with children under the age of 18 in the United States in 2008, over 809,000 of those parents were incarcerated. In light of these statistics, the Social Work in Public Health journal published a special issue dedicated to the impact of parental incarceration on children and families.

The special issue features 11 articles spanning a range of topics and an introduction by guest editors Belinda E. Bruster, Division of Social Work at Florida Gulf Coast University, and Ann Adalist-Estrin, Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated. Article topics include:

  • Maintaining connections among children and their incarcerated parents
  • Evaluation of mentoring programs for children of prisoners
  • African-American fathers and incarceration
  • Mapping service needs of adolescent children of prisoners
  • The effect of parental criminal justice involvement on children

In "Parental Incarceration and Kinship Care: Caregiver Experiences, Child Well-Being, and Permanency Intentions," author Ramona W. Denby explores the impact of incarceration-related kinship care on permanency. Denby presents findings from a study of the stress-and-strain theory, which involved 72 caregivers and 127 children. The study examined how stress affects caregiver acceptance and/or rejection of the child and the caregiver's willingness to adopt. The study also examined caregiver readiness, perception of child well-being, and unmet service needs.

Respondents scored high on the scale for strain and stress, and more than half of the study's sample said they were not likely to adopt the child in their care. However, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they would agree to establish permanency for the child through legal guardianship. There also was a strong correlation between permanency intentions and caregiver reports of unmet service needs. These findings are important in light of research showing an increase over the past two decades in the number of children living with kin because of parental incarceration. The author also notes that recent literature has identified protective factors that may mitigate risk factors associated with this population.

Social Work in Public Health Special Issue: The Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children and Families, 27(1–2), 2012, is available for purchase here:

Related Items

For more information on and resources for working with children with incarcerated parents, visit the following pages on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: