In the United States in 2008, more than 2.7 million children had an incarcerated parent (The Pew Trust - http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf). Children with one or more incarcerated parents face a unique array of challenges to their daily life, including financial strain, social stigma, educational difficulties, and mental health problems (http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411616_incarcerated_parents.pdf). During their parent's incarceration, children may lack a stable home structure, moving between different caretakers. The majority of children of incarcerated parents live with their mother; however, if their mother is the incarcerated parent, these children are more likely to live with grandparents than their father. A smaller percentage will end up living in foster care or with other friends and family (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/pptmc.pdf). In addition to this potential loss or reduction in home stability, children of incarcerated parents may have experienced trauma before, during, or after their parent’s arrest or incarceration (http://youth.gov/youth-topics/children-of-incarcerated-parents/children-who-have-experienced-trauma). Children of incarcerated parents may also feel stigmatized by their parent's situation, resulting in mental health issues and isolating them from potential support (http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411616_incarcerated_parents.pdf).
All of these factors can create a great deal of stress in a child's life. School librarians have the opportunity to provide resources to these students to empower them during this difficult situation. This guide offers resources for school librarians to use in order to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for students dealing with the problems caused by having an incarcerated parent. While much of the research performed in this domain has focused on teachers, the authors believe the resources compiled in this guide can also be useful to school librarians. This guide includes links to tip sheets, library programming ideas, scholarly articles, toolkits, legal information, collection development ideas, and more. It is designed to help school librarians become aware of the issues surrounding parental incarceration with the end goal of making school libraries into a more welcoming and useful place for children of incarcerated parents.
A Note On Terminology
Throughout this document the acronym COIP will be used to represent the phrase "children of incarcerated parents."