LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A new report from Kentucky Youth Advocates reaffirms a bleak outlook for kids with incarcerated parents. Kentucky has the 11th highest rate of children who have had a parent incarcerated. Breaking down the statistic, one in ten Kentucky kids have dealt with a parent behind bars.
“When you talk about one in ten, think of a typical classroom. That’s probably two or three kids in an average classroom, and the impact to children can be significant,” said Tara Grieshop-Goodwin, chief impact officer at Kentucky Youth Advocates.
In their latest report, Kentucky Youth Advocates received over 200 responses from respondents across Kentucky. Respondents represented 65 out of 120 counties – including 60% of all counties with a local jail.
While stakeholders and community partners may see the impact, some worry the parental incarceration landscape is widely unknown.
“A lot of people don't really see those numbers, and they think, ‘This isn’t my problem, so why should I be involved, why should I be invested?’” explained Dale Robinson.
Robinson understands the dynamic of kids with incarcerated parents better than most. He spent ten years of his sons’ lives in federal prison.
“It was hard, but I'd make sure that I was always writing, calling, I managed my phone time to make sure I could stay in touch and make sure I could parent my kids even from being incarcerated,” said Robinson.
He’s making up for lost time now by heading back to prison. This time, he’s returning as the co-founder of the Wanda Joyce Robinson Foundation, and he’s on a mission to break the cycle.
“Dysfunctional families create dysfunctional kids, dysfunctional kids create dysfunctional communities, so that's why our work is important,” said Robinson. “We're trying to build our community back up.”
Robinson’s foundation facilitates video and in-person visitations along with a host of other community outreach.
Other detention centers across Kentucky receive support from community partners through things like father-daughter dances, holiday gatherings, free video chats, and kid-friendly visitation rooms within the detention center.
“It looks very different in different counties, so it's not a one size fits all approach,” explained Grieshop-Goodwin.
One thing is for sure, supporting Kentucky’s shared sentence families takes a village.
“If we put our arms around those kids, there's no telling what they can become,” said Robinson.