• May 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 4

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Children in Vermont Impacted by Parental Incarceration

Vermont's Building Bright Futures and Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children's Heath) initiatives published a policy brief discussing the impact of parental incarceration on children. Children whose parent(s) are incarcerated can experience feelings of shame, isolation, toxic stress, and other adverse childhood experiences. The brief addresses how the effects of toxic stress due to parental incarceration can be reduced by maintaining strong relationships with caregivers and the child's incarcerated parents, when possible. Early identification of toxic stress and the implementation of appropriate interventions are integral to helping children improve physical, emotional, and behavioral wellness.

Successful programs in Vermont that offer services and support for incarcerated parents and their children are highlighted in the brief, along with recommendations for programs and policies to help improve children's health and well-being. Recommendations include the following:

  • Address the data gap related to these children and families, and ensure that the data are accessible.
  • Ensure contact visiting with parents in all Vermont correctional facilities, including older children.
  • Implement proven-effective programs aimed at reducing the trauma experienced by children of incarcerated parents.
  • Establish interagency efforts to assess the impact law enforcement and criminal justice policies have on children and families.
  • Increase financial aid and other support to kinship providers.

Parental Incarceration and Its Effect on Childhood Health, by T. Sawyers, 2014, is available at http://cdn.buildingbrightfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/LAUNCH_policy_brief_novdec14-FIN.pdf (774 KB).

To learn more about the impact of parental incarceration on children in out-of-home care, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/outofhome/casework/children/incarcerated/.

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