1 in 28 children have an incarcerated parent

It was a busy day at the National Zoo with lots of families enjoying the warm weather on Father’s Day. If we can’t spend the day together, most of us call our Dads, as I did this morning. But according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, one in twenty-eight children in the US has an incarcerated parent. An in-person visit can be expensive or impossible when a father is incarcerated far from home, but visits with parents are critical to a child's well-being. Phone calls and emails cost families hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year. The Osborne Association has more facts.

Parental separation has negative consequences for parents and children alike. Children of formerly incarcerated parents are more likely to live in poverty. For the parent, the attachment to their child often becomes the motivation to stay out of the justice system. Pat Nolan, of American Conservative Union Foundation, himself a formerly incarcerated father, has an article outlining proposed changes that leverage this intrinsic motivation for change. For non-violent offenders, suspending sentences and replacing incarceration with community supervision keeps families together, as my family was able to stay together. A stable home and strong family support are key factors in reducing recidivism.

It’s a common theme around the country: someone realizes they want to be a better parent than their own parent was, so their child has a better chance than they did. Even Obama said so. But wanting to be a better parent, and becoming one, are two different things. That’s why the Second Chance Act has funded parenting grants to teach young men and women how to be better parents. Rehabilitation programs place a strong emphasis on soft skills in the workplace, but soft skills in the home matter too, even for non-custodial parents. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention lists twenty four effective programs on its website related to families and parenting.

My father was my inspiration

It was tough seeing my Dad looking for work and not being able to get a regular job. Like many men, he started working construction to support his family, and with skills eventually started his own business as a residential contractor. My father was the inspiration for starting Acivilate. His example of hard work and persistence has stood me in good stead.