Jump to: Conversations/Explanations;   BooksAges 3-5Ages 6-8; Ages 8-10; Ages 10-12; Ages 12-14; Ages 14-16; Ages 16-18Articles



Rainbows for All Children
Rainbows for All Children trains adult volunteers in community-based sites such as schools, faith-based organizations, libraries or community centers to lead age-specific support groups for children and teens, ages 3-18, who are grieving from some type of loss. These groups provide a safe environment that encourages communication while identifying, navigating and discussing difficult feelings that accompany loss.

Project Avary

Nationwide, Project Avary supports children of incarcerated parents by means of support groups.

Children of Incarcerated Parents: Tools, Guides, & Resources
This page provides a continually-updated list of tools, guides, and resources to assist teachers, school staff, youth, parents, and youth-serving organizations in caring for and supporting children who have an incarcerated parent.

The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated 
This library contains a number of pamphlets that contain helpful information for incarcerated fathers and those who serve them.  Topics include how to prepare a child for a prison visit, and how to tell a child that their father is incarcerated. In English and Castilian [a Spanish dialect].

The Anne E. Casey Foundation - Parental Incarceration 
When a parent is incarcerated - a primer for Social Workers

Resources for Children of Prisoners -  by Prison Fellowship
This website provides a list of books, programming, and additional resources for children ages 3 to 10+.

SKIP, Inc. Community Resource Services
This organization provides programs and services for children with incarcerated parents and their caregivers to improve their academic success and mental and physical health.

The Heroin Epidemic Relief Foundation
This organization provides relief to families affected by the heroin epidemic while supporting pieces of legislation that deal with the issue itself. 

Breakaway Outreach -  Resources on how to help a child of incarcerated parents.

Sesame Street - Stories, activities, guides for parents - pdf downloads

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration - A Guide to Support Parents and Caregivers - pdf download

Children of Inmates Organization -  Help facilitate parent/child visits.

Natural Beach Living - Visual Cards for Managing Feelings and Emotions -  Free Printable


Parental Incarceration:


*Note: not all books only fall under the ages they are listed under. Those with an "*", can work for older ages as well.

List of children’s books dealing with incarceration (pdf download)


The Healing Code: 6 Minutes to Heal the Source of Your Health, Success, or Relationship Issue
by Ben Johnson

Your healing kit for life - to recover from issues you know about, and repair the ones you don’t.


Ages 3-5

Doogie’s Dad*
by Richard Dyches

This story is about Doogie, a young boy, and his sister whose father is sent to prison. It explores their feelings of loss, fear, and frustration at not being told what’s going on until their mother finally takes them to visit their dad in prison.


Mama Loves Me from Away*
by Pat Brisson

The story of a young girl, now living with her grandmother, who looks forward to visiting her mother in prison every Sunday. Prison is never mentioned; the focus lies on their emotional bond. 


The Invisible String*
by Patrice Karst

The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else.

Ages 6-8

Daddy’s Big House
by Corey Beauford & Marilyn Garin

Little Jo Jo is your typical, fun-loving kid. His life, however, has changed tremendously since his father, Big Jo, moved away. One day, Little Jo Jo’s mother takes him to visit his father at his new “big house.” This heartfelt story will explore how Big Jo’s absence from his son’s life affects Little Jo Jo academically and emotionally. 


My Mom Went to Jail
by Kathleen Hodgkins & Suzanne Bergen

My Mom Went to Jail is a story to help children cope with their mother’s incarceration. It includes dual texts: one for 6-10 year olds, and a simplified version for preschoolers. Issues presented in the text include incarceration, foster care, feelings, consequences of behaviors, and feelings of abandonment.


The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail
by Melissa Higgins

When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. This colorfully illustrated book lets children know that they are not alone in this situation. It offers age appropriate explanations to help with difficult conversations. Told from the experience of a rabbit, this picture book is intended to make a parent’s incarceration a little less frightening.


Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights (Kids Are Important Series)
by Julie Nelson

Children need to know that when families change, it is not their fault.

Ages 8-10

Let’s Talk About When Your Parent Is in Jail
by Maureen Wittbold

Discusses why jails exist, why people go to jail, and how to deal with having a parent in prison.


Coping When a Parent Is in Jail
by John J. La Valle

The book describes the effect of imprisonment on the prisoner and the family, and discusses life in jail, the criminal justice system, parole, women prisoners, and the value of counseling for family members.

Ages 10-12

You Can’t Lock Up the Moon 
by Sharyl Green

In You Can’t Lock Up the Moon, Green tells the story of ten-year-old Jamaria’s resourcefulness, as the girl tries different ways to connect with her mother in prison. Green paints the family’s financial struggles with a light brush, while beautifully describing the natural environment that offers Jamaria both adventure and solace.

Ages 12-14

Growing Up on 21st Street, Northeast Washington DC: A Memoir
by Bryant R Mayo

This book tells the life story of Bryant Mayo, a young man growing up in Northeast Washington D.C. It is an autobiography that describes his teen years. It is about growing up without a father. The book tells an honest story about his family, his friends, and his challenges. 


What Will Happen to Me?
by Howard Zehr (founder of the concept of "Restorative Justice")

What is life like for a child who has a parent in prison? This book brings together photographic portraits of 30 children whose parents are incarcerated, along with their thoughts and reflections, in their own words. 

Ages 14-16

“Incarceration” Before, During and After (A Journey of Change)
by J.M. Benjamin

Incarceration is a redemptive story about the power of change and how an ex-offender refused to become another statistic once he had paid his debt to society. J.M. Benjamin, once considered a threat to the community, gives you an up-close and personal account of growing up on the west end part of Plainfield, New Jersey.

Ages 16-18

Wish You Were Here: Teens Write About Parents in Prison
by Autumn Spanne & Nora McCarthy

More than 1.7 million children in the United States have a mother or father in prison. Children of inmates often carry a complicated tangle of guilt, shame, fear, anger, sadness, and longing for their absent parents. This book features true stories from both parents and teens who are coping with that separation, and struggling to figure out how to be part of each other's lives.