CHANGE MAKERS Young People Who Have Incarcerated Parents

1 in 28 young people currently have an incarcerated parent.

1 in 14 youth will have a parent incarcerated at some point during their childhood.

In 2016, a group of youth with incarcerated parents shared their experiences and tips for other young people who also have incarcerated parents.


You are not alone. Here are some things many of us experience:

We rely on our own inner strength.

My strength is trying new things and putting myself around positive people.

We are misjudged negatively because of our parent’s situation or actions, such as people assuming we'll turn out like our parent.

You become a statistic. Your mom went to jail at this age so you might too.

We often grow up too soon, taking on adult responsibilities, such as:

  • taking care of younger siblings
  • getting jobs to help with family finances
  • obtaining physical and mental healthcare
  • avoiding negative attention from those who could take us away
I have to fill the adult role with my siblings. I walk to the store, buy groceries, do everyone’s laundry.

We still love our parent, even though they have made mistakes.

And we miss them.

For holidays or other special moments, it's hard to know my parent isn't there.

We do not have control over the situation and do not always know what to expect from the incarceration process.

We aren't certain if or when we'll be able to talk to or see our parent again.

Anything can happen in prison. When you see your mom or dad, you look at them like it’s your last visit.

Our experience is different from youth whose parents are absent for other reasons like divorce, such as:

  • not being able to hug our parent during a visit
  • not being able to call and talk to our parent any time we want
It’s very expensive to maintain a relationship.

We even have different experiences from each other, such as our relationship with our parent, involvement with child welfare, financial situation, and living arrangements.

My parent was incarcerated before I was born, so I was always in foster care.
My parent was incarcerated when I was little, but I lived with my grandparents.

We have the same needs and wants as other youth. We want:

  • to be loved
  • to be successful
  • to have support
  • to have friends
It’s hard when you have no one to talk to.


Created with images by jonathan mcintosh - "Chevron meme background" • arinahabich - "Podcasting"

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