BETHESDA, MD - It's hard enough just being a kid these days. Now imagine experiencing a childhood, in which at least one of your parents is in jail. Sadly, that scenario is very real for one in 14 American children, according to national research organization Child Trends. The 20 page report, looking into what effects incarcerated parents have on their kids, discovered the shocking number. Sadder still, for African-American kids, the stat rises to about one child in nine with a parent serving time. And when it comes to economically disadvantaged children, it's one in eight.
Wendi Gradney, a mental health counselor at Covenant House Texas says, "A lot of the adolescents and children that face this. They do try to break the cycle, but a lot of them get their social stigma which sometimes causes them to hit their brick wall, where they end up doing the same thing that their parents do. Given the estimated 5 million children with parents behind bars, researchers hope the focus now turns to how to help these kids cope with their situation. Gradney adds, "This is about breaking the cycle. It's about having them in their individual therapy, meeting with psychiatry and weekly group meetings."
The challenge is to offer these kids the help they need, before the same struggles their parents went through become their own when they become adults