Despite work by many agencies and prison facilities, services for children with incarcerated parents in Illinois resemble a fragile web in which few strands connect and through which many children fall, says the Chicago Reporter. The newspaper found that many inmates are unaware of available services for their children, many caregivers experience financial strain, and overwhelmed service providers are perceived by inmates to work alone, rather than in concert with families and other agencies. “There are so few people accounting for or accommodating these kids,” said Nell Bernstein, author of “All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated.” “A few jails [or] a few nonprofits- but it’s not systematic. They’re small pilot programs with three-year funding or one really altruistic person crusading for the cause. My sense is that most of them are receiving no services.”
The Reporter surveyed nearly 100 prisoners and more than two dozen experts and social service agencies to find out what they thought children needed during their parent’s arrest, sentencing, incarceration and release. About two-thirds of the inmates and 80 percent of the providers said children need their parents to be arrested in ways that do not compound what are already traumatic events. Christina Jose-Kampfner, a professor of educational psychology at Eastern Michigan University, says many children with arrested mothers exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. “One of the things that people don’t understand is that, for these kids, it’s like a war zone,” she said.