Miller - Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal Vol 23 No...

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The Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children: An Emerging Need for Effective Interventions Keva M. Miller, LCSW ABSTRACT : The increasing number of children with incarcerated parents constitutes perhaps one of the largest at-risk populations in the United States. Short- and long-term effects of parental incarceration are difficult to quantify; however, the current literature indicates that this population is negatively responding to major shifts in family structure, and is vulnerable to economic stress and adverse interpersonal issues. Service providers are seeking appropriate intervention strategies to address the resultant issues of parental incarceration. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research on effective practice methods. This paper reviews the literature on the potential implications parental incarceration has on children, and discusses service providers’ concerted efforts to allay the consequences. Recommendations for appropriate data collection and identification of relevant gender, developmental, and cultural interventions are provided. KEY WORDS: Children; Parental Incarceration; Intervention. In the past two decades, the unprecedented 3.8% annual growth of the United States prison population has created a burgeoning num- ber of children with incarcerated parents.There is no official statistic to enumerate the youth impacted. It is conservatively estimated that 1.5–2 million children are affected nationwide (Child Welfare Lea- gue of America, 2004; Krisberg & Temin, 2001). Since 1991 the number of children with parents in the correctional system has dou- bled (Horn, 2002), making them perhaps one of the largest at-risk Address correspondence to Keva M. Miller, LCSW, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023, USA; e-mail: [email protected] Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4, August 2006 ( Ó 2006) DOI: 10.1007/s10560-006-0065-6 472 Ó 2006 Springer Science þ Business Media, Inc.
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populations in the United States (Mumola, 2000). Estimates suggest that an additional 10 million children have a parent with a history in the criminal justice system (Brenner, 1998; Reed & Reed, 1997). Children of inmates are often referred to as the ‘‘hidden victims’’ of crime because they traditionally have been underserved and understudied (Seymour, 1998). In the 1990s, professionals increas- ingly encountered youth who experienced myriad adverse reactions that were associated with parent–child separation. Consequently, there was a surge of attention brought to the emerging impact of parent imprisonment. The literature provides practitioners with only an orientation to the multiple implications, and unfortunately there is a dearth of empirical studies on specific interventions that address the adverse effects. Interventions that give consideration to gender differences, developmental stages, and cultural relevance are also significant factors that merit further discussion. Mitigating all problems may pose a challenge, but it is important to note that chil- dren have the capacity to cope with adversity. Thus, identifying the
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