A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore shows states aren’t doing enough to support children after parent is sentenced to prison. The foundation is recommending policy reforms aimed at putting the needs of children first when judges and states make sentencing decisions.
Scot Spencer is with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, a group that advocates for children considered at risk. The foundation wants more states to consider factors like distance and replacing suspended child support payments before sentencing a parent.
“Just because someone is sentenced, the child that is there should not have to suffer the sentence along with their parent," says Spencer. "And so in many cases what we’re simply asking for is looking for ways to give kids that opportunity to be able to succeed and grow.”
Spencer also says courts should inform community groups once a child’s parent has gone to prison. He says educators also need to place more attention on the issue in schools to help children navigate life with a parent missing.
“To be able to help them deal with, and really get through the fact that one: someone is missing from their household. And secondly what happens when someone is missing in a community. Sometimes there are those whispers that take place and the kids hear it and it creates an effect or trauma that might be similar to abuse or some other domestic violence trauma that they might experience in their lives,” says Spencer.
The report shows that in South Dakota an estimated 17,000 kids or 8% of the children in the state have had or currently have an incarcerated parent.
The US Justice Department designates the last week of April as National Reentry Week. Prison facilities across the country are holding events to help prepare inmates for successful release.