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Children with a Parent in Prison

Featured Books in this Category / Main Booklist

Featured Books

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. Vera B. Williams, $9.75

Essie is smart. She can read hard library books and make cocoa. Amber is brave. She isn't afraid of the rat in the wall or of climbing up in high places. Amber and Essie are sisters and best friends. Together, they can do anything.


The Best Interests of Children: an Evidence-Based Approach. Paul Millar, $24.95

The best interest of the child is an overriding principle in all matters of family law, especially in child custody cases. THE BEST INTERESTS OF CHILDREN links social theory with survey data to establish much-needed parameters for determining a child's best interest. It provides important criteria for determining the best interest of the child and concludes that the role of law in the lives of children must be to preserve their connections with those that love them.


Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers. Brigid Daniel et al, $39.95

Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers summarizes important current thinking on child development and applies it directly to practice. The book covers key issues such as resilience and vulnerability and the impact of protective or adverse environments. Different stages of development (infancy, school age and adolescence) are discussed, and attachment theory is used to offer insights into the impact of abuse and neglect on development. This book encourages practitioners to consider each child as an individual with unique circumstances, and links theory and practice in an imaginative and sympathetic way.

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Children with Parents in Prison: Child Welfare Policy, Program & Practice Issues. Cynthia Seymour & Creasie Hairston, $44.95

Existing literature indicates that children whose parents are incarcerated experience a variety of negative consequences, particularly in terms of their emotional health and well being. They also may have difficult interactions or limited contact with their parents. There are also issues connected with their physical care and child custody. The many challenges facing the child welfare system as it attempts to work with this population are explored in Children with Parents in Prison. Topics covered include:

  • Supporting Families and Children of Mothers in Jail
  • Meeting the Challenge of Permanency Planning for Children with Incarcerated Mothers
  • The Impact of Changing Public Policy on Relatives Caring for Children with Incarcerated Parents
  • Legal Issues and Recommendations
  • Facilitating Parent-Child Contact in Correctional Settings
  • Earning Trust from Youths with None to Spare
  • Developing Quality Services for Offenders and Families
  • Understanding the Forces that Influence Incarcerated Fathers' Relationships with Their Children

Children and families have long struggled with the difficulties created when a parent goes to prison. What is new is the magnitude of the problem. This volume calls for increased public awareness of the impact of parental incarceration on children. Its goal is to stimulate discussion about how to best meet the special needs of these children and families and how to provide a resource for the child welfare community.


Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents. Stacey Burgess, Tonia Caselman & Jennifer Carsey, $28.95 (GR 2-6)

Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents is for counselors, social workers, and teachers who work with children who have an incarcerated parent. Designed to be used with individual students or in small therapeutic groups, the book offers literature reviews, discussion suggestions, activities, worksheets and more. Topics include:

  • Understanding what happened
  • Building a support system
  • Dealing with shame
  • Allowing for grief, acknowledging trauma
  • Building positive relationships
  • Planning for the future

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Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can't Live with Their Parents. Janice Levy, $13.50 (ages 6-12)

Finding the Right Spot is a story for kids who can’t live with their parents, regardless of the circumstances. It’s a story about resilience and loyalty, hope and disappointment, love, sadness and anger too.


In the Shadow of Prison: Families, Imprisonment and Criminal Justice. Helen Codd, $45.95

This book provides an up-to-date, accessible introduction to the relationship between families, prisons and penal policies and explores current debates in relation to prisoners and their families, and introduces the reader to relevant theoretical approaches. Interdisciplinary in nature, the book incorporates perspectives drawn from criminology, sociology, social work and law.


Jakeman. Deborah Ellis, $11.95 (novel, pre-teen)

Jake and his sister Shoshona have been in foster care since their single mother was arrested three years before. Both have found their own ways to cope: Shoshona has become a bossy mother figure; Jake, who is a budding comic book artist, has created an alter ego named Jakeman. Four times a year Jake and his sister take the long overnight journey through New York State to visit their mother in jail - along with an assortment of nervous, angry, and damaged kids on the way to visit their own mothers.

But this trip will be like no other trip they've ever taken.

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Loving through Bars: Children with Parents in Prison. Cynthia Martone, $32.50

An estimated 2.3 million children in the United States have a parent in prison-children whose lives are filled with a unique kind of instability and uncertainty. These children are themselves victims of their parents' crimes, members of a neglected segment of our population who are potentially damaged by stigma and shame and who are at risk of being pulled into a vicious cycle of future criminality and deviant social behavior. Such children are child prisoners-kids who must learn to understand living and loving through bars. In Loving Through Bars: Children with Parents in Prison, Cynthia Martone offers a searing and poignant view of these unfortunate kids, presenting their particular plights through a series of stories.

This examination of the instability and uncertainty that plague children of prisoners chronicles their attempts to cope and presents a possible starting place for societal response.


My Daddy is in Jail: Story, Discussion Guide & Small Group Activities for Grades K to 5. Janet Bender, $22.50

My Daddy is in Jail offers professionals and caregivers resources for providing information and support in helping young children cope with the incarceration of a loved one.


My Daddy’s In Jail. Anthony Curcio, $18.99

There are nearly three million adults in the U.S. alone that are in prison or jail. Many of these people are parents, who leave behind children unanswered questions — What is jail? Why did this happen? Is it my fault? Is my daddy (or mommy) bad? Do they love me?

My Daddy’s in Jail is a story of two bears who have a father in prison. The book helps to answer these important questions, and to reassure children that they are loved.

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The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail. Melissa Higgins, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan, $9.95 (ages 4-8)

It’s tough when someone you love goes to jail. But thanks to the school counselor, and a box of crayons, this little rabbit who loves to draw learns how to make it through the scary, sad, and mad times. 


Our Moms. Q. Futrell, illustrated by Clarissa Ferguson, $11.50

Our Moms is an easy-to-read guide that lets kids with incarcerated parents know they're not alone. Quniana Futrell is here to help shed light on the effects this has and has had on these children's lives.


Parents Who Misuse Drugs and Alcohol: Effective Interventions in Social Work and Child Protection. Donald Forrester & Judith Harwin, $54.95

This insightful book presents original research outlining the key elements in responding to parental misuse of drugs and alcohol:

  • Offers a definition of "misuse" and "addiction" and the factors that influence the nature of misuse or addiction
  • Reviews extensively the nature and impact of parental substance misuse on children and families using the latest evidence
  • Explores how research and theories might help inform professionals or non-professionals assessing families affected by parents who misuse drugs or alcohol
  • Provides an in-depth discussion of Motivational Interviewing, including a critical discussion of the challenges and limitations involved in using it in child and family settings
  • Considers the wider implications of the findings for practice and policy and argues that these responses can be used across the field of work with vulnerable children and their families

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Understanding and Working with Parents of Children in Long-Term Foster Care. Gillian Schofield & Emma Ward, $40.95

For children growing up in foster care, the role of their birth parents is an important factor in the success of their long-term placements. Understanding the experiences of parents is essential in developing effective practice with parents that can also ensure the best possible outcomes for children.

Drawing on detailed interviews with parents, the book takes a chronological approach, starting with their accounts of family life before their children were taken into care. It goes on to explore their experiences of court and then how they seek to come to terms with their loss, sustain an identity as a parent and manage a relationship with their children. Parents' views on what they find valuable and helpful in relationships with foster carers and social workers are also discussed. The book then draws on the views of social workers on the opportunities and challenges of supporting parents, while also remaining child-focused. The authors set out a model of good practice, based on the lessons learned from the experiences of these parents and social workers.


War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Families They Leave Behind. Renny Golden, $45.95

Renowned criminologist and activist Renny Golden sheds light on the women behind bars and the 350,000 children they leave behind. In exposing the fastest growing prison population, Golden sets up new framework for thinking about how to address the situation of mothers in prison, the risks and needs of their children and the implications of current judicial policies.


What Do I Say about That? Coping with an Incarcerated Parent. Julia Cook, $14.50

When a loved one is sentenced to prison, the emotional turmoil is difficult for everyone to handle. Children of incarcerated parents often suffer the heaviest burden of all and pay the price of hardship. As a result, they often develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and feelings of abandonment and grief.

Children of incarcerated parents are five times more likely than their peers to commit crimes. Unfortunately, these at-risk children are largely ignored before they get into trouble. This book takes a unique look at the internal struggles a child faces when a parent is incarcerated. What Do I Say About That? explores and validates the roller coaster journey of emotions that children of incarcerated parents endure. It also gives insight to the process of healing and coping.

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“What Will Happen to Me?” Howard Zehr, Lorraine Stutsman Amstutz, $22.95

What is life like for a child who has a parent in prison? This book brings together photographic portraits of 30 children whose parents are incarcerated, along with their thoughts and reflections, in their own words. This compassionate and eye-opening book includes:

  • Reflections of several grandparents who are unexpectedly parenting children whose parents are incarcerated
  • Ten questions often asked by children with a parent in prison
  • Dealing with Emotions — including grief and loss, shame and stigma, anger and isolation
  • Resources for staying in touch, finding moments of celebration, adjusting to a parent’s return,  and self-care for caregivers
  • “The Children’s Bill of Rights,” along with thoughtful consideration about how to apply restorative justice and respect for relationships in these difficult situations

When Dad Was Away. Liz Weir & Karin Littlewood, $21.50

This is a gentle and sensitive story showing how one family comes through a difficult time of separation, by an author and illustrator who have extensive experience of working with prisoners and their families.


Wish You Were Here: Teens Write about Parents in Prison. Autumn Spanne, Nora McCarthy & Laura Longhine, Editors, $22.95

These stories describe how teens kept in touch with their parents (or didn't) and the complicated feelings that come with reunification.

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Complete Booklist

Resources for Families and Service Providers

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. Vera B. Williams, $9.99

The Best Interests of Children: an Evidence-Based Approach. Paul Millar, $27.95

Child Development for Child Care and Protection Workers. Brigid Daniel et al, $39.95

Children with Parents in Prison: Child Welfare Policy, Program & Practice Issues. Cynthia Seymour & Creasie Hairston, $44.95

Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents. Stacey Burgess, Tonia Caselman & Jennifer Carsey, $28.95 (GR 2-6)

Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can't Live with Their Parents. Janice Levy, $13.50 (ages 6-12)

In the Shadow of Prison: Families, Imprisonment and Criminal Justice. Helen Codd, $45.95

Jakeman. Deborah Ellis, $11.95 (novel, pre-teen)

Loving through Bars: Children with Parents in Prison. Cynthia Martone, $32.50

My Daddy is in Jail. Janet Bender, $22.50 (ages 5-11)

My Daddy’s In Jail. Anthony Curcio, $18.99

The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail. Melissa Higgins, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan, $9.95 (ages 4-8)

Our Moms. Q. Futrell, illustrated by Clarissa Ferguson, $11.50

Parents Who Misuse Drugs and Alcohol: Effective Interventions in Social Work and Child Protection. Donald Forrester & Judith Harwin, $64.95

Understanding and Working with Parents of Children in Long-Term Foster Care.Gillian Schofield & Emma Ward, $40.95

War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Families They Leave Behind. Renny Golden, $49.95

What Do I Say about That? Coping with an Incarcerated Parent. Julia Cook, $14.50

"What Will Happen to Me?" Howard Zehr, Lorraine Stutsman Amstutz, $22.95

When Dad Was Away. Liz Weir & Karin Littlewood, $21.50

Wish You Were Here: Teens Write about Parents in Prison. Autumn Spanne, Nora McCarthy & Laura Longhine, Editors, $22.95

Related booklists: Children & Youth in Care/Child WelfareParent Education & Support; Addiction; Domestic Violence

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