Interacting with the criminal justice system can be confusing and frightening, especially for a prisoner's child. Unable to understand what's going on, they may feel great fear, insecurity, anger, or even guilt.
'THE NIGHT DAD WENT TO JAIL'
"The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Loves Goes to Jail," is an illustrated children's book intended to make the experience of a parent's incarceration a little less frightening. Written by Melissa Higgins and illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan, "The Night Dad Went to Jail" is narrated by Sketch, a young rabbit whose father is arrested and sent to a county correctional facility pending trial.
Young Sketch is filled with fear, self-doubt and anger. He feels awkward during jail visits with his dad, and when he gets teased by his classmates at school, he acts out aggressively and is sent to the guidance counselor, Miss Sanchez. The counselor appropriately assesses the situation, finding Sketch a mentor and a support group instead of punishing him for his in-class outburst.
WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE GOES TO JAIL
This colorfully illustrated book offers children the solace of knowing that their experience is not unique: many others face the pain and embarrassment of having a parent suddenly ripped out of their daily world. It also offers age-appropriate explanations of what's going on in the child's life. For example, it explains what a law is, and what can happen if an adult breaks one. It also offers suggestions on what to talk about during prison visits, and healthy ways to respond if the child feels sad or angry.
"The Night Dad Went to Jail" is a helpful tool for a young child facing the tumultuous future with an incarcerated parent. As an added bonus, the depiction of the characters as animals makes it appropriate for children of any racial background. It is available for purchase from Picture WindowBooks through online bookseller Amazon.
REMEMBER THE CHILDREN
Sketch's situation is somewhat idealized. He has a loving mother and grandmother, caring local police, an attentive social worker, a mentor, and a children’s support group. Many of America’s 2.7 million children of incarcerated parents go into the experience with far less support and understanding.
But "The Night Dad Went to Jail" remains a useful supplement to the experience of any incarcerated child, and a reminder to all of us that the more support a child receives through programs like Prison Fellowship's® Angel Tree® program, the more likely they are to come through the experience with a minimum of harm.