Of course, it is really important to remember that everyone’s experience of having a parent in prison is different and its good to remind the children that one person’s story might be very different to their own. Similarly, what one child finds helpful in terms of coping strategies might well differ to another child.
Books for children and young people
Here are some books to help children and young people cope with having a parent in prison. Some have been written by children themselves based on their lived experience.
Please bear in mind that some of these books have been written by American authors if you are accessing this site in the UK, so do take the time to consider the descriptions and make an appropriate judgement of what might be useful for your child.
This self-help booklet has been illustrated and informed by a group of children who attend Time-Matters UK.
Are you a young person with a family member in prison?
This leaflet is designed in the UK to help teenagers who have relatives in prison. You might feel isolated, alone, not sure how to get support or talk to other young people in the same situation as you. You may have questions or are looking for a little more information on what happens when someone is arrested, appears at court or goes to prison.
Teen Guide to Living with Incarcerated Parents: A Self-Help Book for Coping During an Age of Mass Incarceration
At 16 years of age and as a rising senior in high school, Anyé Young offers a glimpse into her life as a teenager coping with life while her father is serving a 12-year prison sentence. She shares personal stories along with tips and tricks she’s learned while coping with the challenges of life away from her father and in a single-parent home. With this book, Anyé aims to motivate and inspire children who have parents in prison. She wants them to know that they can overcome the shame and embarrassment they may feel. She also aims to help the single parents and extended family members, who are raising other children with incarcerated parents, gain a better understanding of the challenges their children face. Anyé offers her book as a guide for teenagers, like her, who are determined to succeed in life no matter the circumstances. (American author).
Everyone Makes Mistakes: Living with My Daddy In Jail
Take a heart-warming journey with 10-year-old author, Madison Strempek, as she candidly depicts her life experience of living with her father in jail. Through her eyes, you will live the heartbreak of her life changing news, discover how she survives with her embarrassing secret, and ultimately finds resolution and strength in understanding everyone makes mistakes. It’s truly a story of perseverance, forgiveness, and love. She skilfully helps the reader manoeuvre through difficult times by providing opportunities to reflect with blank pages of doodle space, letter writing ideas, and helping the readers find their inner champion. Madison’s personal
story is not only valuable for kids living with a parent in jail, but also brings great insight to parents, doctors, social workers, psychologists, judges, lawyers, inmates, law enforcement, friends, and family that support children with incarcerated parents. (American author).
Far Apart, Close in Heart: Being a Family when a Loved One is Incarcerated
Children can experience many emotions when a parent is in jail or prison. They may be angry, sad, lonely, or scared. Sometimes friends act differently toward them. Sometimes the children begin acting differently too. In this important book, young readers will learn that even when it feels like nothing can get better again, there are ways they can improve their circumstances. Sending letters, talking to a trusted grown-up about their feelings, and even visiting a parent in jail or prison can help keep a parent close in their hearts. Use this title as a helpful tool to start a conversation with any child in this situation and to remind them they are not alone. (American author).
Aimed at 8-11 year olds, this book features the story of 8-yr old James Orchard who turns detective to find out the truth about his dad, who disappears with the police early one morning. (British author).
Seen & Heard: 100 Poems by Parents & Children Affected by Imprisonment
The poems and images are all original and from open competitions begun in 2018 in the UK. They address the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of the authors as they express themselves concerning their emotions and experiences. Over a million children and family members are affected by imprisonment in the UK alone and the poems seek to emphasise the sense of loss, deprivation and isolation involved. They also show resilience—and how enforced separation impacts each and every day of the writer’s life. Published and made possible with the kind support of Lady Edwina Grosvenor. (British authors).
My Dad’s in Prison
This sensitively written picture book explores the experience of having a parent in prison from a child’s point of view. Perfect for sharing with children, it promotes understanding and provides reassurance. It has been written with the advice and support of Storybook Dads, a UK charity that seeks to help children and parents maintain their relationship during imprisonment by providing CD recordings of fathers reading bedtime stories to their children. (British authors).
The Night Dad went to Jail
What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail (5-8yr olds).
When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. What do you do? No matter who your loved one is, this story can help you through the tough times. (American author).
In this moving picture book from multi-award winning author Jacqueline Woodson, a young girl and her grandmother prepare for a very special day–the one day a month they get to visit the girl’s father in prison. “Only on visiting day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m, and Grandma in her Sunday dress, humming soft and low.” As the little girl and her grandmother get ready, her father, who adores her, is getting ready, too, and readers get to join the community of families who make the trip together, as well as the triumphant reunion between father and child, all told in Woodson’s trademark lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by James Ransome. (American author).
An Inmates Daughter
On the first day of summer vacation between seventh and eighth grade, Jenna MacDonald does the dumbest thing ever. She jumps from the McNeil Island boat dock into the water to save a little girl from drowning. McNeil Island is a prison in the middle of Puget Sound. Its where Jennas dad lives, and she is there with her mother, brother, and grandparents for a visit. Her dad was recently transferred to the island, and Jenna, her mother and brother transferred too, to live with Jenna’s grandparents. Jenna has been trying to join The Snoops, her school’s in-group. They’re racially mixed. She’s part Native American. Though they’re really looking for an Hispanic, they are evaluating her. Jenna isn’t permitted to tell her new friends that her dad is in prison. It’s her mother’s rule. Prison reflects on wives and children. Keeping the fact of prison secret becomes more difficult when the newspaper runs a story about a Good Samaritan rescue at the McNeil Island Corrections Center. No names are mentioned, but Jenna’s mother is furious. Jenna stays out of her mother’s way, and collects the news clippings about the incident. She writes in her journal about her wish to tell the truth. Just as Jenna is forming a friendship with one of The Snoops, another learns about her dad and prison by snooping in Jenna’s room. The group leaders vote to exclude Jenna, but the forming friendship survives, and a new one begins when the former boyfriend of a Snoops leader reveals his real dad is in prison too. An Inmate‘s Daughter is a fictional account of the reality faced by over 2 million American children with a parent in prison or jail. The children are doing time too. (American author).
Sources Of Support
Prisoner’s Families HelpLine
The National Prisoners’ Families Helpline can support you if a family member is in contact with the criminal justice system. They provide advice and information on all aspects from what happens on arrest, visiting a prison to preparing for release. They support families in England and Wales and you can find information about organisations who can support you in Scotland and Northern Ireland on their website.
Pact is a national charity that provides support to prisoners, people with convictions, and their families through a range of services, including:
- Prison-based family engagement workers.
- Prison visitors’ centres.
- In- prison visitor support, supervised play, catering and enhanced family activities.
- Prison and community-based relationship and parenting education programmes.
- Court and community family support.
- ‘Through the Gate’ and community-based mentoring and befriending programmes.
- National helpline and digital information service
Their page for Children and Young People has lots of useful videos and resources for children.
NICCO lists comprehensive information from voluntary and statutory agencies across England and further afield. The three Directories enable practitioners to search for Services, Resources or Research to inform their practice with children and families of offenders.
Neurolove is an organisation made up of therapists, creative and techies who use social therapy techniques to help young people 8-25 years old to stay emotionally and physically well. All services are free for young people to use. They have so many amazing online workshops to join including craft, dance, mindfulness, baking, yoga, workouts, digital creativity and so on. If you are struggling with stress, anger, anxiety or low mood this organisation is a fabulous source of support.
POPS was established in 1988 by family members experiencing the stigma and distress of supporting a relative through a custodial sentence. POPs has Family Support Workers attached to a variety of prison, probation and youth offending initiatives as well as running ten prison visitor centres, all with the aim of empowering families through the provision of timely information and targeted support.
Clinks supports, promotes and represents the voluntary sector working with people in the criminal justice system and their families.
Children’s Rights And Contact With a Parent In Prison
Shona Minson considers the rights of children whose parents are in conflict with the law.
Child Rights Connect
Child Rights Connect provide knowledge, advice and connections to children’s rights defenders, including children, on how to influence and use the UN human rights system for sustainable change at national level. The link below shows their work on supporting children of incarcerated parents that includes a working group established to support the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The Prison Reform Trust
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) an independent UK charity working to create a just, humane and effective penal system. The link below shows their research into how children of prisoners should be better supported.
Children of Prisoners Europe
Founded in 2000, Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) is a pan-European network working with and on behalf of children with imprisoned parents. The network encourages innovative perspectives and practice to ensure that the rights of children with imprisoned parents are fully respected and that action is taken to secure their well-being and healthy development. COPE is a membership-based organisation made up of non-governmental organisations, individuals and other stakeholders across Europe and beyond. With a network of European partners active within prison-related, child rights and child-welfare fields, they seek to boost awareness and achieve new ways of thinking, acting and interacting on issues concerning children affected by parental imprisonment.