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Children Severely Stressed by Incarcerated Parents

Eight percent of children in Oregon have had a parent in prison. (pixabay)
Eight percent of children in Oregon have had a parent in prison. (pixabay)
April 25, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – When parents are incarcerated, their children are suffer, too.

More than 68,000 children in Oregon have had a parent in prison, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Scot Spencer, the foundation’s associate director for advocacy and influence, says children of the incarcerated – 20 percent of whom are age four or younger – are missing out at a crucial period in their lives.

"They're losing their parent in those critical years of child development, and so there are some long-standing impacts,” he points out. “It can increase a child's mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and it can hamper educational achievement in that child."

The report also finds that nearly two-thirds of families with incarcerated members struggle to afford basic needs. If a father is incarcerated, household income drops by nearly a quarter.

The report suggests states should adopt policies to help families with financial, legal and child care assistance.

Oregon already has a ban-the-box law in place that prohibits employers from asking potential employees about their criminal background on applications, making it easier for the recently released to get a job. While this is a good step, Spencer says states should go further to ensure stable households for children.

"State and local governments should provide incentives for housing authorities and private landlords to lift restrictions on people with records, so that families can remain in or access safe and affordable housing," he stresses.

Eight percent of children in Oregon have had a parent in prison, on par with the national average.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR