Families Impacted by Incarceration

Families Impacted by Incarceration

In the United States today, more than 5 million children, or 7% of all children, have a parent who is or has been incarcerated. More than 1.7 million children, or 2% of all children, have a parent who is currently in federal or state prison. Data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) shows that about 8% of children who enter foster care do so as a direct result of parental incarceration. In many more cases, parental incarceration is one of several stressors that decrease family stability and contribute to child welfare involvement. While accurate numbers are hard to get, an estimated 15% to 20% of children in child welfare systems have a parent who is incarcerated.

Child- and family-serving programs and child welfare partners can play a role at several key intervention points. CANTASD is developing practice tools, program and policy examples, and resources to help those working on the ground to support families impacted by incarceration.

Use the menu to the left to browse our library of resources on this topic for Working with Families, Changing Policies and Practices, and Building Understanding.


Spotlight On

Strengthening Families, Saving Money

Strategy Profile | Supporting Vulnerable Families

Supporting Vulnerable Families thumbnail image

In 2010, the State of Washington’s Department of Corrections was grappling with a number of problems around prison overcrowding, reduced budgets, and the very real social consequences of separating children from parents due to incarceration. Learn how the state launched a successful sentencing program that keeps families together, while reducing recidivism and saving costs to the corrections and child welfare systems.


An Unlikely Partnership

March 2, 2017 | BCBH Film | Supporting Vulnerable Families

An Unlikely Partnership

An Unlikely Partnership is a film about the impact of incarceration on children and families, and an innovative partnership between Department of Corrections and the Department of Early Learning in Washington State. It is a film about how investment in strong, nurturing parent-child relationships can be a powerful motivator to reduce recidivism and keep parents from re-offending. Intriguingly, it is also a story about how the most unlikely of partners can come together around a shared agenda for the safety and well-being of children, and create remarkable results.


Promoting Family Resilience in the Face of Parental Incarceration

December 14, 2016 | Digital Dialogue | Supporting Vulnerable Families

Promoting Family Resilience

More than 5 million children have a parent who is incarcerated. Parental incarceration can destabilize families and lead to child welfare involvement. Watch a 30-minute digital dialogue with Dr. Crystallee Crain, Coordinator of the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership. Learn more about how parental incarceration impacts children. Explore questions on how to support families impacted by incarceration and key points for intervention.