Having a parent in prison is more common than childhood autism in the United States. That detail is revealed in a new report from Volunteers of America, which seeks to raise awareness of what life is like for the children and their caregivers. In many states, including Wyoming, resources for assistance are scarce. Beth Poffenberger Lovell with Volunteers of America says there is deep stigma for children that becomes more significant as the child grows older.
The Wyoming Department of Family Services offers some help and guidance, as does the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid. The report shows it's usually better if caregivers can receive personal assistance as they often need help navigating the school system, or even buying food and clothes.
The U-S Department of Justice estimates one-point-75 million children under age 18 currently have a parent in prison. Millions more have been affected at some point in their lives, and most are children from low-income families of color.
Lovell says it's important that everyone understands that these children are innocent bystanders.
Recommendations in the report include providing safe environments so children can visit parents more often, and in areas that don’t look like prisons. Volunteers of America runs several pilot programs around the country where they "coach" incarcerated parents and offer coaching and assistance to those caring for the children.