PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A daylong event worked to educate care providers to hopefully end the stigma around tens of thousands of children with parents behind bars.
The Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance trained scores of social service professionals on Tuesday to better help kids impacted by incarceration.
“To them it’s not a criminal, it’s mom or dad,” says Anita Kulick who works with Educating Communities for Parenting. “Just because a kid expresses a certain behavior it doesn’t mean they have ADHD.”
She says a parent’s incarceration can be a major stressor for children the trauma of a parent being ripped away, as well as separation can leave children vulnerable to abuse.
In addition, many times teachers and other individuals who provide services discriminate against the children, lowering expectations and misdiagnosing behavior.
“The police come, take the parent away and the next day, we see the kids in school and the child acts out,” she says, “so when children have certain behaviors it might not be ADHD.”
She says many kids keep their parents status secret to avoid stigma.
“Some adults think kids who have parents who are incarcerated the kids are just as bad,” says 16-year-old Brianna Still of Lancaster.
Brianna’s father has been in prison her whole life and her mother has not been in the picture.
Raised by her grandparents, she says knows first hand that many adults condemn kids for their parents’ mistakes.
She wants that to change.
“With each life that is born you have your own history,” she says. “You’re parents history shouldn’t be placed upon you.”
Brianna sings with a program called, S.W.A.N. that works with kids whose parents are behind bars.
More than 3 million children in America have at least one parent who is incarcerated.