The numbers

The numbers of invisible children are growing

invisiblechildrenIt is widely noted in the literature that we are living in a period of policies of increased incarceration.

While much of the writing on this relates to the explosion of prison numbers in the United States, a similar, if smaller, increase is evident in a number of other countries, including New Zealand.

The implication of this growth is not considered to be that children become more visible, but that we get more invisible children.

It should not come as a surprise that the presence of parents in U.S. prison populations is growing, although relatively little attention has been given to this.

The invisible children population is getting bigger

This change is a result of the increasing reliance on incarceration as a criminal sanction.

[A]bout two-thirds of incarcerated women and more than one-half of incarcerated men are parents of children under eighteen years of age. Recent estimates show that more than 1.5 million children have a parent who is incarcerated in the United States, and many more children will have a parent incarcerated during a period of their lives.

This grim reality should be a major policy concern because the imprisonment of parents… can severely diminish the economic and social capital on which families and communities depend to raise children successfully.
(Hagan & Dinovitzer, 1999 p. 137).

The literature widely argues that social and justice agencies fail to recognise the situation and needs of the children of prisoners. That they are invisible children.

This is not a cruel and callous dismissal of the children, but a failure to recognise that the arrest and incarceration of a parent is likely to impact in a range of negative ways on the children. More particularly, there is an implication that, through policy and practice, agencies could do a lot more.

Now tell us what you think

Share your thoughts about this in the comment box here. We are absolutely interested in your ideas, reactions or experiences with invisible children.

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