Children of Incarcerated Parents


Children of incarcerated parents are the forgotten victims of imprisonment. When a mother or father goes to prison, their children are affected, often adversely.

Imprisonment of one or both of a child’s parents can result in serious and enduring negative effects for the child, including social exclusion, greater financial difficulties, and what can be perceived as abandonment and rejection, particularly when family members and carers conceal the truth of the parent’s whereabouts. It can lead to worse behaviour and achievement in school, and affect the child’s mental and physical health.

Children who have had little contact with the imprisoned parent may find their lives are largely unchanged, while some may benefit from being separated from parents who behave dangerously or disturbingly. Every child is different and will cope differently, but the effects on children, good or bad, are rarely taken into account in criminal justice processes.

The failure to consider or consult children of imprisoned parents at all stages of the criminal justice process – from arrest, to trial, to imprisonment, to release, to rehabilitation into the community – can result in their rights, needs and best interests being overlooked or actively damaged.

The Working Group on Children of Incarcerated Parents

The Working Group was established to support the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its preparations for the 2011 Day of General Discussion on children of incarcerated parents. Following this success, the Working Group has continued to raise awareness about children with parents in prisons at the Human Rights Council, as well as among UN treaty bodies, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and regional and national bodies.

Membership of the Working Group

The Working Group welcomes the involvement of member organisations of Child Rights Connect. Other interested organisations are welcome to participate as observers.

Current members include:

Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers) – represented by the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva

International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE)

Action for Child Rights International

DCI International

SOS Children’s Villages International

International Baby Food Action Network

Relais Enfants Parents (REPR)

DCI Costa Rica



Penal Reform International


Database of concluding observations

CRC Day of General Discussion 2011

Quaker United Nations Office publications

An Exhibition on Children of Incarcerated Parents

The COPING Project on the mental health and wellbeing of children of prisoners 

JustUs – a high-quality children of prisoners website

Contact details of the Working Group

If your organization would like to join the working group or requires more information on the Working Group of Children of Incarcerated Parents, please contact co-convenors,

Laurel Townhead, Quaker United Nations Office

Catherine Baker, Quaker United Nations Office