Prison and Parent-Child Relationships: Options for You

Prison Parent-Child Relationships OptionsWhen a parent goes to prison, it can affect a child forever. In many situations, children are left home in a stressful environment or sent to foster homes. What can a family do if a parent is sent to prison? It is a difficult thing to have your family split apart in any situation, but the challenges of prison and family life are very unique. What do you do if you are the only parent for your children and you are about to be sentenced to prison? There are options, which I will share with you.

Many families have a difficult time relating after a parent is sentenced to prison. The spouse or other parent is left at home and is now responsible for the entire house, including the bills and stress of raising the children as a single parent. This stress can be overwhelming. Some spouses are angry and often feel that their punishment is even worse than their partner who was sent to prison. At least in prison you get to have friends and interact with others, but left home alone you hardly have time to think. Some situations leave kids scattered between relatives, sleeping on the couch or in sleeping bags.

Keeping your children’s relationship strong with the parent that was sent to prison will be hard. Children will often withdraw from that parent and not be interested in going to visit them. It is not because they don’t love their parent, it is just because they can feel the tension around the situation and want to do what they can to avoid feeling that way.

Besides being traumatized by one of their parents going to prison, it is difficult for children to understand and they often have to deal with it under extreme conditions at home as well. What happens if the parent going to prison is the only parent a child has? If a family member is not going to take custody of the children they will be awarded to the state.

Here is what a number of single parents have chosen to do:

Prison Parent-Child Relationships Options consider adoptionIf you are a single parent facing a prison term, you can consider open adoption as an option. Through adoption, you can choose loving adoptive parents for your child. You get to decide where they will go and who will parent them, since you will be unable to. You can keep the children together and still stay in contact with them. It is traumatic enough for a child to have a parent go to prison, but being moved from foster home to foster home or separated from their siblings will make it even worse for the child.

Through open adoption, you can find a family to parent your child in a way that you would if you were there. You can work with the adoptive family and discuss what would make you comfortable in making your decision. If you are going to be in prison for a length of time, it could set your mind at ease knowing your children had a stable loving home to be raised in. Counselors can help explain adoption to you and your children when you are ready. There is no cost to you to go through an adoption plan. All the legal work is paid for by the adoptive parents and the choices are up to you if you decide before you check in for your term. There are a number of waiting families of all ethnic backgrounds and faiths to select from.

You can make a good choice for your child’s future with Lifetime Adoption’s help. To learn more about adoption, call or text Lifetime at 1-800-923-6784 or visit


Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P. (Certified Open Adoption Practitioner) is an adoptive mother, adoption expert, and author of a number of adoption books. Mardie is also the talk show host of Let's Talk with Mardie Caldwell and the founder of Lifetime Adoption in 1986. She travels and speaks nationwide on adoption topics, family topics, infertility and writing. She has been quoted in and consulted for Parenting and Adoption magazines and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC, BBC, NBC, and Fox. Featured in Parade Magazine, Caldwell is an adoptive mother living in Northern California.


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