Resources for Working with Children of Incarcerated Parents

I have received many inquiries about my work with children of incarcerated parents.

Parental Incarceration impacts millions of U.S. Children. According to the Family and Corrections Network, 7 million, or one in 10, U.S. children have a parent under some form of criminal justice supervision - in jail, prison, on probation, or on parole.

There are unique problems and stressors created by parental incarceration. Children often face a form of imprisonment of their own when a parent is taken away. Children of incarcerated parents are often difficult to identify because of the shame and social stigma associated with incarceration.

In spring of 2009 I ran groups for children of incarcerated parents. There are some really great resources available for learning about children of incarcerated parents. Many of the resources can be used in individual and group counseling.

A website to start learning about children of incarcerated parents is The National Research Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (NRCCFI). I was trained by Ann Adalist-Estrin, the directer of the The National Research Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated (NRCCFI). The NRCCFI website has fact sheets, links to resources, and training opportunities. I also recommend checking out the Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents from San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents.

A great book for counselors and educators to learn about issues associated with children of incarcerated parents is All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated by Nell Bernstein. All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated includes personal interviews with children and families. All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated gives a voice to issues associated with incarceration. All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated is a must read for anyone working with children.

I use the book My Daddy Is in Jail: Story, Discussion Guide, and Small Group Activities for Grades K-5 in individual and group sessions with students. I keep my copy of My Daddy Is in Jail on display in my office. I often have students disclose they have a parent or family member in jail after seeing My Daddy Is in Jail on my shelf. Students really enjoy the book. One of the students I worked with particularly enjoyed drawing pictures and talking about them using prompts from the book. 

I also keep a copy of Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson on display. Visiting Day is about a little girl who goes to visit her dad in jail.

What do you want to know about working with children of incarcerated parents? Do you have any favorite resources that you use for working with children of incarcerated parents? Comment below, email metweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.


  1. Thank you for this information. I am in a new situation with a set of 5th graders whose grandparent approached me for help with this situation. I am completely in the dark so am thrilled to find this website and resource that has been helpful to another school counselor. I'll stay tuned for further information and will get a copy of the books you mentioned.

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