One child is having nightmares and the belief that his dad has been chained to the wall
of a dungeon with rats biting at his feet. Another refuses to come to school, afraid that
her Grandma, like her mother, will be taken away by the police. A third is flourishing
happy for the first time in his short life now his violent, drug-abusing father has been
removed from the family.
The effects on a child when a parent is put in prison can vary dramatically. Some will
handle the situation admirably but most will find the practical and emotional upheaval
difficult to manage. Some will be devastated.
Research suggests that children of prisoners experience a greater risk of depression,
low self esteem, lack of concentration, low academic performance, increased truanting
and delinquent behaviour. Around 65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to offend
Only one education authority at present - Gloucestershire – has a ‘Parent in Prison Policy’ in which formal links have been made with the prison service and the authority’s youth offending team to ensure that schools are kept informed and able to support pupils when a parent is in custody.
There are calls for greater support and cooperation between different agencies to help children with parents in prison. There is no specific guidance available about how organisations can support children of prisoners. But it is important for children of Prisoners to maintain family ties.
Teachers and other professionals struggle to find the support they need. One of the most effective measures a school can take to help these children and their families is to make it clear that support is available. It’s up to schools to create an environment where families feel they can talk about this. Putting posters on public notice boards or giving out information leaflets can break down the barriers and give out the message that ‘if there’s a problem we can help.