New Hope provides services to approximately 400 children across the state of Oklahoma who have a parent in prison. The mission of the organization is to “End generational incarceration one child at a time.”
Oklahoma is ranked among the three states with the highest incarceration rates in the nation and holds the dubious distinction of having the highest female incarceration rate, 130 per 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 67 per 100,000. Data from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth continues to show that more than 26,000 children in Oklahoma on any given day have a parent in prison. These children have increased problems compared with other at-risk children in poverty, including school challenges, attachment disorders, behavioral or conduct problems, criminal activity, and substance abuse. Maternal and paternal incarcerations have also resulted in a reduced likelihood that children will complete high school. Perhaps most alarming, though, is the fact that New Hope children face a far greater risk than their matched peers of winding up behind bars in prison.
The children of prisoners that participate in New Hope programs commit no crime but often have to give up many things that are important to them, their well being, and their life trajectory. The above research and other studies considering the effects of parental incarceration on the well-being of children indicate the great risk parental incarceration poses; however, relatively few programs are directed at meeting the needs this population.
While children of prisoners are clearly at-risk, studies also show that early intervention and prevention services – like New Hope’s – can mitigate the effects of parental incarceration and improve the lifelong outcomes for this population. Working together with the community to provide quality programs that meet the emotional and psychological needs of our individual children, New Hope is changing the lives of children of prisoners by interrupting the cycle of incarceration, one child a at time.