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  • Writer's pictureLisa

Far Apart......Close in Heart

The arrest of a parent can be traumatic for many children. As noted in a comprehensive review of research on children with incarcerated parents, "The arrest and removal of a mother or father from a child's life force that child to confront emotional, social, and economic consequences that may trigger behavior problems, poor outcomes in school and a disruption or severance of the relationship with the incarcerated parent that may persist even after the parent is released from prison." (Hairston 2007)

Nearly 3 million children under the age of 18 have a parent in jail or prison, and millions more have experienced their parents being arrested. Due to their parent's criminal justice involvement, a growing body of research indicates that these children often experience trauma, family disruption, and the loss of their primary caregiver, which can lead to financial hardship, residential instability, and an array of emotional and behavioral problems. New West Orlando Foundation in collaboration with other organizations and educators address many issues facing these children of incarcerated parents.

2,019,000 women are jailed in the U.S. each year - 80% are mothers. (Prison Policy Initiative)

Some of the known harms to children from parental incarceration include:

  • Traumatic loss marked with feelings of social stigma, shame and stress

  • Mental health problems and elevated levels of anxiety, fear, loneliness, anger and depression

  • Less stability and greater likelihood of living with grandparents, family friends or in foster care

  • Difficulty meeting basic needs for families with a member in prison or jail

  • Lower educational achievement, impaired teacher - student relationships, more behavior problems, attention deficits, speech and language, and learning disabilities

  • Problems getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet

  • More mental and physical health problems later in life

One of our missions at New West Orlando Foundation is creating and developing the C.O.O.L (Children of Orlando Link) Program which provides support services to children of incarcerated parents and to create public awareness of the underlying problems these young people face.

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