Caregivers of Children with Incarcerated Parents

Ande Nesmith*, 1, Ebony Ruhland2
1 University of St. Thomas, Minnesota 55105 · USA
2 Council on Crime and Justice, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA

© 2011 Nesmith and Ruhland;

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Social Work, SCB 201, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105,USA; Tel: 651-962-5805; Fax: 651-962-5819; E-mail:


With rising attention toward the plight of children with incarcerated parents, there has, as yet, been little focus placed on the adults who care for them, individuals who may have a profound impact on the children's relationships with their incarcerated parent. This study explores unique parenting challenges the caregivers faced, from their perspectives and presents their voices. Caregivers discussed the strain of serving as a gatekeeper between the child and imprisoned parent, coping with stigma and isolation, and negotiating a predominantly child-unfriendly visitation system. The findings suggest that caregivers need information about raising a child in this context, connections with others in similar situations, and a more child-friendly and transparent judicial and visitation process.

Keywords: Children of incarcerated parents, caregiving, impact of incarceration.