Chasing After Parents in Police Cars

Picture an 11-year-old child running down the street after a police car screaming and begging the officer to let her father stay home. Meryam Bouadjemi recalls the somber quiet of a morning in March of 2000. She remembers her mother leading the family in prayer after Meryam’s father was taken to prison. But until a family member told her the story 10 years later, she had blocked out the painful memory of chasing after the police car.

Meryam’s story is not unique. Twenty percent of the 2.7 million children of incarcerated parents witness their parent being taken away to prison. What happens to the children and families left behind? Generally, they are left to deal with the hardships and stigmas of having an incarcerated family member.

Meryam’s family became a single parent household. Living off her secretary’s income, Meryam’s mother struggled to keep up with the expenses of the home and family. Meryam experienced the social consequences of having an incarcerated parent. She lost the friendship of children whose families no longer wanted to associate with hers.  She worked hard in school but received no counseling or support to help her deal with her father’s incarceration.

Children of incarcerated parents and their families are let down by the criminal justice system, the school system, and the community. Meryam was lucky to have a hard working mother and supportive family. Many children of incarcerated parents do not have this kind of support. Awareness needs to be built and policies need to be changed so that these children are not left behind with broken families and lives.

Source: Meryam Bouadjemi

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