Erica Dean is a policy analyst for the Connecticut Association for Human Services
The Second Chance Society, 1.0 and 2.0, are very important and reminiscent of Connecticut’s progressive nature. But, as a policy analyst for a nonprofit in Hartford whose agency has strongly supported this legislation, I’m becoming increasingly concerned as to why children with incarcerated parents have not been included in either version of this legislation.
As of April 1, 2016, 54 percent of those currently incarcerated reported being a caregiver. Over 75 percent of those with an incarcerated caregiver are from single parent homes. Single caregivers left to take on the financial burdens that occur when a family member becomes incarcerated also risk suffering from poor health, addiction, depression or anxiety. More than 18,000 dependents in our state have been through this distressing experience; one that research has found to be as traumatic as other types of parental loss, including divorce and even death.
Experiencing the incarceration of a caregiver is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Exposure to an ACE is associated with increased risk for toxic stress and trauma. According to a recent Annie E. Casey Report, the trauma of being separated from a parent, along with a lack of sympathy or support from others, can increase children’s mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It can also significantly hamper educational achievement.
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