Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Parents In Prison: Children Share the Pain

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida has the third-largest number of children in the nation who have, or have had, a parent in jail or prison, which experts describe as a "shared sentence" due to the lifelong impact on kids.

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds kids with an incarcerated parent are often living under financial stress, and are more likely to be homeless.

Dr. Norin Dollard is the director for Florida Kids Count and she says courts and communities need to come together to support these kids.

"We know that kids who aren't in poverty, it can push them into poverty, and we know that there's a whole host of things that unfortunately come along with that in terms of promoting their development," she says.

The report recommends policies to help stabilize families experiencing incarceration, like keeping location in mind during sentencing so that parents are kept close by their kids, and providing more job and housing support for those reentering their communities.

There are more than 5.1 million children in the United States, and 312,000 in Florida, with a parent who's been incarcerated.

Scot Spencer, associate director for advocacy and influence with the Casey Foundation, says losing regular parental involvement at an early age can be as devastating to a child as abuse or domestic violence.

"They're losing their parent in those critical years of child development and so, there are some long-standing impacts," says Spencer. "It can increase a child's mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and it can hamper educational achievement in that child."

Dollard adds the smallest victims often get lost in the shuffle.

"We get the news about people being arrested, and the money we spend on prison, which is all well and good, but we forget the little ones at home," she says. "They were not responsible for whatever caused their parents to be arrested."

Photos/graphics, layout, and links added by the Observer | Annie E. Casey Foundation

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