Children of incarcerated parents are some of the most resilient children, profoundly impacted by a justice system that hardly acknowledges us.
It is time to share our voices and experiences of the consequences of our unjust system, so that we can lead the way to meaningful reform.Isabel Coronado, Next100 Policy Leader
Here in Kentucky, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report, 88% of child maltreatment cases are identified as neglect or deprivation of necessities.
Louisville forensic pediatrician Dr. Melissa Currie points to “substance use, domestic violence and one of the highest parental incarceration rates in the country” as contributing factors. Kentucky is 3rd in the nation with its 12% rate of parental incarceration.
Similar rates in other states have led some national child welfare leaders to question whether neglect is being confused with poverty. These leaders maintain that a strength-based public-health response to poverty is more universal and would offer broad eligibility for health-oriented services.
Removal of children from their families due to neglect is especially concerning in Kentucky because of racial inequities in youth and adult incarceration.
As youth advocate Danielle Hempel points out, where “Black children are much more likely to be removed from their homes than their white peers.
The disproportionate representation of children of color in the foster care system is driven by a number of factors, including socioeconomic status and family structure, as well as bias and structural inequities. Poverty in and of itself does not account for the racial disparities in foster care.
Putting children with incarcerated parents in the center of systemic change to end child abuse in Kentucky calls for racial and economic equity in all policies.