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One in every 14 children in the U.S. has had a parent in prison. For poor families, it’s one in eight. They are the collateral damage of a mass incarceration movement that has made the U.S. the nation with the most prisoners in the world. For the past nine years, it’s been the job of Aileen Keays Yeager to figure out what that means for children in Connecticut.
Listen to the recent interview with the CIP Initiative’s Program Manager, Aileen Keays Yeager on WTIC’s At Home in Connecticut
Aileen Keays Yeager discusses the newly interactive website designed for children and families experiencing the incarceration of a loved one. The CIP initiative also released a study that dispel the common myths and investigates issues surrounding parental incarceration that are frequently not considered.
Interview by WNPR, a new report commissioned by two Connecticut organizations looks at the challenges children face when their parents are in prison. One of those groups — the Connecticut Association for Human Services — to see what they found and how they plan on using the results to guide future policy conversations. Also hear from a college student whose father spent nearly a decade behind bars.
Children of parents who are incarcerated face challenges that other kids can’t even imagine. There can be a loss of income, a loss of the person who loved and cared for them, a loss of dignity and a quiet shame that is often hidden from classmates, teachers and friends, said Aileen Keays, a research specialist with Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy.
What is the value of a child’s bond with a caregiver? Over time our society has gained awareness and compassion – and has put systems in place – for children separated from one or more parents. It is widely understood, in a general sense, that a child separated from their parent or primary caregiver will struggle. Yet this awareness does not translate when incarceration is the cause of that separation.
Under Connecticut’s current policy, the mothers are allowed to stay with their newborns only while in the hospital. After that, and usually within 48 hours of giving birth, the parent returns to prison, and the child is placed with a relative or in foster care.
The camp is headquartered at Dixwell and Argyle at the Believe in Me Corporation (BIMEC) social services agency. Aileen Keays said that for kids of incarcerated parents, “One of the biggest issues is stigma and isolation of talking about it, which can be very harmful. By meeting other kids with similar life challenges, it helps them better deal with the challenges.”