Resources for Children of Prisoners2018-06-18T13:49:58+00:00

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, the United States has approximately 3 million children with at least one parent doing time. A sudden parental departure commonly leads to separation anxiety, anger, sadness, and feelings of loneliness and abandonment amongst young children.

Children and families with a loved one in prison are also “doing time” for their loved one’s mistake. There is a stigma that is commonly associated with families with a loved one in prison. Because of this, children are more at risk for emotional, social, and classroom problems. Depending on their age, they are also more susceptible to engaging in substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and gang activity.

By opening a dialogue not only between children and adults but also children with other children, these problems can be alleviated through understanding and support. Prison Fellowship hopes to follow our mission of restoring not only the child but also the entire family by providing a list of books for children with an incarcerated parent. For more resources of support for families of the incarcerated, please visit and learn more about Prison Fellowship’s Angel Treeprogram.

Books that Deal with Incarceration

Andy: Another New Dad-less YearANDY: ANOTHER NEW DAD-LESS YEAR

by Amanda Florence-Houk

This book is designed to be a self-help book for families experiencing parental incarceration. The content of the book is based upon current literature regarding paternal incarceration. This book can also be used as a tool to make others more considerate of the trials faced by children of incarcerated dads.


Doogie’s DadDOOGIE’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 feelins 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.


Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can’t Live with their ParentsFINDING THE RIGHT SPOT: WHEN KIDS CAN’T LIVE WITH THEIR PARENTS

by Janice Levy

A spirited young girl is living with her Aunt Dane (not her real aunt) for a while, until her mother is able to care for her again. She experiences the emotional ups and downs of living in an unfamiliar home and being separated from her mother.

Kofi's MomKOFI’S MOM

by Richard Dyches

Kofi’s Mom is a story about Kofi whose mother is sent to prison. It explores his feelings of loss and confusion. Through friends at school, Kofi begins to talk about his mom and to look forward to her return.


Mama Loves Me from AwayMAMA LOVES ME FROM AWAY

by Laurie Caple

The relationship between a mother and daughter is pushed to its limits when Mama is incarcerated. Sugar clings to the memory of her mother’s stories and lives for her weekly visits to the prison when her grandmother is feeling up to the bus ride. On their shared birthday, Mama gives Sugar a special gift and a special way to feel close to her.


Missing DaddyMISSING DADDY

by Akilah Butler

Regardless of the reason for the absence of a father – divorce, military service, imprisonment, or death – it can be a challenge to know the right words for the tough questions that children will ask.


Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster CareMURPHY’S THREE HOMES: A STORY FOR CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE

by Jan Levinson

Murphy, a Tibetan Terrier puppy, is told he is a ‘good luck dog’ – he is cheerful, happy, and loves to play and wag his tail. However, after going through two different homes and an animal shelter, Murphy starts to feel like a ‘bad luck dog’ who nobody wants.

Please Don’t Take My Daddy!PLEASE DON’T TAKE MY DADDY!

by Loretta Acosta

Ricardo is a young child who is trying to cope with his dad being handcuffed and dragged away to jail. Ricardo’s mom explains to him why his dad was taken away, explaining how they can keep in touch and how they can help him after he is released.


The Invisible StringTHE INVISIBLE STRING

by Patrick Karst

Specifically written to address children’s fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message – that love is the unending connection that binds us all.


The Kissing HandTHE KISSING HAND

by Audrey Penn

The Kissing Hand is just the right book for any child who is temporarily separated from home or loved ones. The rough but endearing raccoon illustrations are as satisfying and soothing for anxious children as the simple story.


The Night Dad Went to JailTHE NIGHT DAD WENT TO JAIL

by Melissa Higgins

When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. What do you do? No matter who your loved one is, this story can help you through the tough times.

Visiting DayVISITING DAY

by Jacqueline Woodson

A young girl and her grandmother prepare for a very special day – the one day a month they get to visit the girl’s father in prison. As the little girl and her grandmother get ready, her father is getting ready, too.


What Is Jail, Mommy?WHAT IS JAIL, MOMMY?

by Jackie A. Stanglin

When the truth is withheld from children they tend to blame themselves for other’s mistakes and short-comings. What Is Jail, Mommy? not only explains why the parent is incarcerated but what his/her life is like as a prisoner.


When Dad Was AwayWHEN DAD WAS AWAY

by Karen Littlewood

When Mum tells Milly that Dad has been sent to prison, Milly feels angry and confused. She can’t believe her dad won’t be at home to read her stories and make her laugh.


When I Feel AngryWHEN I FEEL ANGRY

by Cornelia Spelman

Anger is a scary emotion for young children, their parents, and caregivers. As this little bunny experiences the things that make her angry, she also learns ways to deal with her anger – ways that won’t hurt others.


When I Feel SadWHEN I FEEL SAD

by Cornelia Spelman

Readers will recognize similar experiences in their own lives as this little guinea pig describes feeling sad when someone is cross or when something bad happens. Eventually our heroine realizes that feeling sad doesn’t last forever.


When I Feel ScaredWHEN I FEEL SCARED

by Cornelia Spelman

Children often feel afraid. This book, with its comforting words and illustrations, will help children address those fears and learn some new ways to cope with being afraid.


When I Miss YouWHEN I MISS YOU

by Cornelia Spelman

Young children often experience anxiety when they are separated from their mothers or fathers. In this story a young guinea pig expresses her distress when her mother and father go away. But she eventually finds ways to deal with it.

When I Visit My Daddy We DanceWHEN I VISIT MY DADDY WE DANCE

by Ramona Lofton Wright, Josiah Jonathan-Howell Webber, and John Howard Webber III

The whole world may seem dysfunctional at times, so don’t be surprised if it knocks at your door one day. Be prepared to endure and look to the future with hope, patience and love. You may even want to do a happy dance, every time you overcome an obstacle or receive an unexpected blessing.

A Visit to the Big HouseA VISIT TO THE BIG HOUSE

by Oliver Butterworth

When Willy, Rose, and their mother go to visit Daddy in prison, they are quite anxious. But once Daddy appears and they can talk and ask questions.

Amber was Brave, Essie was SmartAMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART

by Vera B. Williams

Essie is smart. She can read hard library books and make cocoa. Amber is brave. She isn’t afraid of the rat in the wall or of climbing up in high places. Amber and Essie are sisters and best friends. Together, they can do anything.


Dad's in PrisonDAD’S IN PRISON

by Sandra Cain and Margaret Speed

Dad’s in Prison tells the story of two brothers whose father is sent to prison. Narrated by the elder brother, the book describes the boys’ experiences and emotions, during and after their father’s arrest, including their first visit to prison.

Daddy's Big HouseDADDY’S BIG HOUSE

by Corey Beauford and Marilyn Garin

Little Jo Jo is your typical, fun-loving kid. He loves basketball, earns good grades and has plenty of friends in his Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Little Jo Jo’s life, however, has changed tremendously since his father, Big Jo, moved away. To make matters worse, Little Jo Jo has no clue about his father’s whereabouts.


Empowering Children of Incarcerated ParentsEMPOWERING CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS

by Stacey Burgess

This book is for counselors, social workers, psychologists and teachers who work with children ages 7-12 who have a parent who is in jail or prison. It is designed so that work can be done individually or in small groups.

Harry SueHARRY SUE

by Sue Stauffacher

Harry Sue Clotkin is tough. Her mom’s in the slammer and she wants to get there too, as fast as possible, so they can be together. But it’s not so easy to become a juvenile delinquent when you’ve got a tender heart.


Help for Kids! Understanding Your Feelings About Having a Parent in Prison or JailHELP FOR KIDS! UNDERSTANDING YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT HAVING A PARENT IN PRISON OR JAIL

by Carol Gesme

An activity workbook that explores the many mixed-up feelings that accompany the absence of a parent due to incarceration. It teaches peer pressure responses, provides tools for problem-solving, and helps students accept their feelings.

JakemanJAKEMAN

by Deborah Ellis

Jake and his sister Shoshona have been under foster care since their single mother was arrested for possession and trafficking three years before. Jake, a budding comic book artist, has created an alter ego named Jakeman.


Kennedy's Big VisitKENNEDY’S BIG VISIT

by Daphone Brooks

Little Kennedy is so excited to visit her father again. After she tries on her princess dress and a tutu, Kennedy’s mother finds something pretty for her to wear. Finally, they are ready to take the long car ride to visit her daddy!


Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for MeKNOCK KNOCK: MY DAD’S DREAM FOR ME

by Daniel Beaty

What happens when, the “knock knock” on your bedroom door doesn’t come? This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams.


Let’s Talk About Foster HomesLET’S TALK ABOUT FOSTER HOMES

by Elizabeth Weitzman

Explains why one goes to a foster home, who foster parents are, what to do if things don’t work out, and other matters regarding foster care.


Let’s Talk about When Your Parent Is in JailLET’S TALK ABOUT WHEN YOUR PARENT IS IN JAIL

by Maureen K. Witthold

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


My Dad is in Jail … I Won’t FailMY DAD IS IN JAIL … I WON’T FAIL

by M.A. Rodriguez

This book has been a dream which has been in the works for two years. It was written to help my grandchild and other children who have parents who are in prison. In the future I hope to write more books to help children faced with problems.


Nine CandlesNINE CANDLES

by Maria Testa

After visiting his mother in prison on his seventh birthday, Raymond wishes it were his ninth birthday when Mama has promised to be home with his dad and him.

Our Moms (Living with Incarcerated Parents)OUR MOMS (LIVING WITH INCARCERATED PARENTS)

by Q. Futrell

Meet Michael, Paul, Jennifer and Anne! All children are different in many ways, but all have one thing in common, their moms are in prison. Parental Incarceration affects children in many ways. This book will serve as a conversation starter for such a sensitive issue that impacts nearly 3 million children in the US.

Rocky's Road: A Coloring Book for Children of Incarcerated ParentsROCKY’S ROAD: A COLORING BOOK FOR CHILDREN OF INCARCERATED PARENTS

by Dr. Janice M. Beal


Ruby on the OutsideRUBY ON THE OUTSIDE

by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.

Tell Me about When Moms and Dads Come Home from JailTELL ME ABOUT WHEN MOMS AND DADS COME HOME FROM JAIL

by Judi Goozh and Sue Jeweler

An invaluable companion for the whole family, this book helps children to adjust when a parent comes home from jail. It shows children how their parent’s homecoming might affect everyone in the family, and provides tips and activities to help them build new family bonds.

Nonfiction. Ideal for use with children aged 6-11.


Tell Me about When Moms and Dads Go to JailTELL ME ABOUT WHEN MOMS AND DADS GO TO JAIL

by Judi Goozh and Sue Jeweler

When a parent is in jail, children need extra support to ensure positive emotional well-being and social and academic development. This reassuring book provides tips and activities for helping children understand what is happening to their parent, feel safe and loved, and manage their feelings.

Nonfiction. Ideal for use with children aged 6-11.


The Same Stuff as StarsTHE SAME STUFF AS STARS

by Catherine Paterson

Angel Morgan needs help. Daddy is in jail, and Mama has abandoned her and her little brother, leaving them with their great-grandmother. The only bright spot is the mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches her all about the stars, planets, and constellations.


The Year the Swallows Came EarlyTHE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY

by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s tender debut novel about food, family, friendship, and forgiveness is as full of promise as the swallows that return home to San Juan Capistrano every spring.


Welcome Home: Mommy Gets Out TodayWELCOME HOME: MOMMY GETS OUT TODAY

by Jamantha Williams Watson

When Bernice and her favorite cousin, Malaika meet Mother Olivia – Bernice’s mother – for the first time; the girls share similar emotions while forcing themselves to understand society, familial and gender issues.


What Do I Say About ThatWHAT DO I SAY ABOUT THAT

by Julia Cook, MS

This book takes a unique look at the internal struggles with which a child of an incarcerated parent is faced and creatively explores and validates the roller coaster journey of emotions that children of incarcerated parents endure.


When Andy's Father Went to PrisonWHEN ANDY’S FATHER WENT TO PRISON

by Martha W. Hickman

When Andy’s father is sent to prison for robbery and the family moves to be near him, Andy is afraid of what the kids at his new school will think.

When Dad Was AwayWHEN DAD WAS AWAY

by Karen Littlewood

When Mum tells Milly that Dad has been sent to prison, Milly feels angry and confused. She can’t believe her dad won’t be at home to read her stories and make her laugh.


Zachary’s New Home: A Story for Foster and Adopted ChildrenZACHARY’S NEW HOME: A STORY FOR FOSTER AND ADOPTED CHILDREN

by Geraldine M. Blomquist

This story for adopted and foster children describes the adventures of Zachary the kitten, who is taken from his mother’s house when she is unable to take care of him. It follows Zachary as he goes into foster care, his adoption by a family of geese and his feelings of shame, anger, and hurt.

An Inmate’s DaughterAN INMATE’S DAUGHTER

by Jan Walker

An Inmate’s Daughter is a fictional account of the reality faced by over 2 million American children with a parent in prison or jail. The children are doing time too.


Breaking OutBREAKING OUT

by Barthe DeClements

As thirteen-year-old Jerry enters junior high school, he continues to adjust to the fact that his father is in prison for theft.


Growing Up on 21st street, Northeast Washington, DC: A MemoirGROWING UP ON 21ST STREET, NORTHEAST WASHINGTON, DC: A MEMOIR

by Bryant Mayo

This book tells the life story of Bryant Mayo, a young man growing up in Northeast Washington DC. 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.


Incarceration: Before, During and After (A Journey of Change)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. Now a poster child for change, the author conveys a powerful message to all that it’s never too late!


JakemanJAKEMAN

by Deborah Ellis

Jake and his sister Shoshona have been under foster care since their single mother was arrested for possession and trafficking three years before. Jake, a budding comic book artist, has created an alter ego named Jakeman.


Making Up MegaboyMAKING UP MEGABOY by Virginia Walter

Robbie Jones is a quiet boy – something of a loner. But when he shoots an elderly Korean shopkeeper, the people in his life struggle to explain what has happened.


Queenie PeavyQUEENIE PEAVY

by Robert Burch

The biggest troublemaker at school and the best shot in Georgia, Queenie Peavey feels she has a right to be angry when her father is thrown in jail. But what would happen if Queenie tried to behave for just one day?


Romar Jones Takes a HikeROMAR JONES TAKES A HIKE

by Jan Walker

When 15-year-old Romar Jones grandmother dies, he leaves his home in Oregon, embarking on a journey to find his mother, who is incarcerated in Washington.


The Same Stuff as StarsTHE SAME STUFF AS STARS

by Catherine Paterson

Angel Morgan needs help. Daddy is in jail, and Mama has abandoned her and her little brother, leaving them with their great-grandmother. The only bright spot is the mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches her all about the stars, planets, and constellations.


Wish You Were Here: Teens Write about Parents in PrisonWISH YOU WERE HERE: TEENS WRITE ABOUT PARENTS IN PRISON

by Autmn Spanne, Nora McCarthy, and Laura Longhine

Additional Resources

LITTLE CHILDREN, BIG CHALLENGES: INCARCERATION (SESAME STREET TOOLKIT)

The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers. It can bring about big changes and transitions. In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments. With your love and support she can get through anything that comes her way. Here are some tools to help you with the changes your child is going through.


SESAME STREET IN COMMUNITIES: INCARERATION (YOUTUBE)

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration, a bilingual (English/Spanish) multimedia initiative, provides much-needed resources to support and comfort young children throughout their parents’ incarceration.


SESAME STREET: INCARCERATION APP FOR ANDROID

The Sesame Street: Incarceration app provides parents and caregivers with tools to help children ages 3-8 cope with the many transitions related to a parent’s incarceration.


SESAME STREET: INCARCERATION APP FOR IPHONE/IPAD

The Sesame Street: Incarceration app provides parents and caregivers with tools to help children ages 3-8 cope with the many transitions related to a parent’s incarceration.