Children of Incarcerated Parents

The Child Abuse Prevention Council’s Children of Incarcerated Parents sub-committee, in conjunction with the Solano County Foster and Kinship Care Education, recently hosted a workshop with Project WHAT!! We’re Here and Talking.

Project WHAT! (PW) raises awareness about the impacts of parental incarceration on children, with the long-term goal of improving services and policies which affect these children. WHAT! stands for We’re Here And Talking, which is exactly what the team is doing. Over 7 million children have a parent under supervision of the criminal justice system - on parole, probation, or incarcerated. The program employs young people who have experienced parental incarceration or those who have a parent under the supervision of the criminal justice system as the primary curriculum content developers and facilitators for trainings. The perspectives of the youth are central to this project. .PW was launched in 2006 with a generous grant from the Zellerbach Foundation by Community Works in Berkeley, California. In year one, the youth were instrumental in researching, creating, and piloting a training curriculum for teachers and social workers. The interactive training provides participants with tools to effectively serve children with parents under the supervision of the criminal justice system.

The PW team also developed the Resource Guide for Teens with a Parent in Prison or Jail. The eighty-page guide, originally released in May 2007 and updated in May 2008, answers common questions that children have when a parent is incarcerated. It has an entire section that explains complex jail and prison visiting procedures in plain language. It also includes compelling stories written by youth, along with a CD of the stories read aloud. Youth who want a free copy should contact the Community Works office.

The incarceration rate for women has increased by more than 800% in the ten years between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s. They remain a population behind bars who are predominantly incarcerated for non-violent offenses. The vast majority of these women experienced childhood physical and sexual abuse and often experienced abuse as adults by “those that are supposed to love them.” Eighty percent of them are mothers. Their children and the children of incarcerated fathers number over a million nationally and an estimated 10,000—12,000 in Solano County whose parents are presently, or have been, incarcerated.

This workshop focused on the needs of children of incarcerated parents and was attended by over 60 participants including representatives from local jail-based services; The California Prison at Vacaville; Probation; Child Protective Services; Public Health; Mental Health; parents and caregivers of children with incarcerated parents, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA); foster parents; United Way of the Bay Area; the Children’s Network and Youth & Family Services.

Project WHAT!

Children of Incarcerated Parents related links:

Legal Services for Prisoners

Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Child Welfare League of America

Family & Corrections Network

National Mentoring Center children_prisoners.html


The Osborne Association

Publications re: Children of Incarcerated Parents

Prisoner’s and Families: Parenting Issues During Incarceration

California Law and the Children of Prisoners

Family & Corrections Network Children's Books
for parents, caregivers and professionals to read with children of prisoners

  • A Visit to the Big House by Oliver Butterworth. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1993, ISBN #0-395-52805-4. Amazon
  • I Know How You Feel Because This Happened to Me. Center for Children with Incarcerated Parents, Pacific Oaks College and Children's Programs, 714 West California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105.
  • Joey's Visit by Donna Jones. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County, 1050 West Genessee Street, Syracuse, NY 13204.
  • Just for You - Children with Incarcerated Parents. Center for Children with Incarcerated Parents, Pacific Oaks College and Children's Programs, 714 West California Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105.
  • My Mother and I Are Growing Stronger by Inez Maury. New Seed Press, PO Box 9488, Berkeley, CA 947099, ISBN# 0-938678-06-X.
    Google Books
  • Two in Every Hundred: a special workbook for children with a parent in prison Reconciliation, 702 51st Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37209, (615) 292-6371.

For further information, contact The Children's Network at or call 707-421/7229 ext 101

Child Abuse Prevention Links

Child Abuse Prevention Council

Child Abuse and Prevention Information

Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Blue Ribbon Campaign