At Kentucky Youth Advocates, our vision is to make Kentucky the best place to be young. However, the traumatic experiences of young people who have a parent incarcerated are all too often overlooked or misunderstood. Whether they live with their other parent at home or with a kinship or fictive kin caregiver, the adults in a young person’s life can play a role in supporting their ability to weather the hardships that come with parental incarceration and nurturing their ability to thrive.

This experience can bring unique challenges for young people and their families, often with little formal support, so Kentucky Youth Advocates, with support from the Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation, connected with dozens of people with firsthand experience through interviews, focus groups, and surveys to better understand the challenges and opportunities for young people impacted by parental incarceration. With the support of incredible partners and justice advocates across the state, we received invaluable insight from kinship caregivers, young people, and people who are formerly incarcerated to include in a new guide that we hope will help normalize their experiences and provide tangible tips and suggestions for the adults in their lives about how to better support them.

The Guide for Supporting Children Who Have a Parent Incarcerated is not intended to be a definitive or exhaustive resource. Instead, it is a quick, approachable document that has easy-to-use tips, suggestions, and statewide resources that adults, both incarcerated and not, can use.

Here are a couple of things you can do to support young people and their families who are impacted by incarceration:

  1. Validate and normalize. A formerly incarcerated parent talked about the importance of normalizing the trauma of incarceration. It’s challenging for everyone involved and there is no right or wrong way to respond to it.
  2. Be supportive. Oftentimes young people don’t know how to verbalize their feelings, or they don’t want to share with others. If they seem angry, sad, frustrated, or withdrawn, taking the time to figure out why is a great way to show that you care and can be an important step towards supporting them.
  3. Share resources. Whether you interact with young people regularly, work in corrections, or are an advocate for young people and their families, consider sharing this resource widely. More than one in ten young people have been separated from a parent due to incarceration in Kentucky, which means that most of us know someone who has been personally affected. Sharing this resource not only raises awareness about this issue, but it also creates opportunities to talk about the importance of supporting these young people and the best ways to do it.

Download the ‘Guide for Supporting Children Who Have a Parent Incarcerate’ PDF here. Find the printable format of the guide here. Read the press release launching the new guide here.

Learn more about Kentucky Youth Advocates’ ongoing partnership with the Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation.

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