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Children of incarcerated parents are a subset of American children at risk.

Almost 3 million American children ­­have an incarcerated parent.[1]

​Among black children the rate is 1 in 9, Hispanics 1 in 28 and white 1 in 57.[2] 

We spend $1,518,1479.96 in cost for opening one drop-in center for one year that will serve 630 children and their families. View our media kit here

CWIP Locations open by year:
RIVERSIDE (2024), OAKLAND (2025), BRONX (2025)

What is CWIP Program

FREE is dedicated to working with and improving the lives of the 1 in 28 children with an incarcerated parent. Our focus is raising children to be happy, healthy and productive citizens. ​FREE, along with a network of faith-­based, secular and professional organizations re-introduce children to their incarcerated parents, create positive memories and moments, and facilitate lasting bonds between children and the parent which lasts a lifetime.

FREE works directly with the state’s Department of Corrections to determine which individuals under supervision would best benefit from parental mentoring and bonding visits during their rehabilitation process. Once these individuals are identified by the DOC, we then reach out to the family and their children to inform them about the CWIP program.

Our goal is to mitigate the trauma caused by prison separation. We coordinate wrap­around services, conduct Bonding Visits, and advocate for stronger policies to strengthen the bond between children and the incarcerated parent(s).

The CWIP Program assures that our children with incarcerated parents have opportunities to be cared for and supported in their development by responsible adults, helpful professionals, and social services within their communities.​

​Who is the CWIP Team

CWIP is comprised of social workers, researchers, pastors, criminal justice professionals, educators, journalists, and technology specialists. In addition, directors, staff, and volunteers are racially, ethnically, religiously and demographically reflective of the communities we serve and the population of our children and their incarcerated parents. Our broad diversity and life experiences yield tremendous benefits as we work to best serve and understand the perspectives of the children, caregivers, and their parents.

We accomplish this vision through a multi-skilled, multidisciplinary team approach that aims:

  • To identify the children of inmates in need of support and link them with appropriate organizations and services.
  • To strengthen bonds between children and their caregivers, including the incarcerated parent(s) when appropriate, by providing support groups and hosting letter writing nights.
  • To mitigate childhood trauma caused by the arrest of parents by engaging law enforcement, social services, and the public in understanding the needs of children.
  • To increase the likelihood of successful reunification with incarcerated parents by supporting communication with parents while they are incarcerated.
  • To raise community awareness and knowledge through advocacy for children of inmates and their needs.

Who Benefits from CWIP Program

The Community

Communities with a large portion of incarcerated members cause a strain on social services and resources. When a parent and child share a bond throughout the incarceration process, that parent is less likely to experience recidivism and become more active participants within their neighborhood, while providing the child with a stable and more positive home.​

The Children

​Many children of incarcerated parents have experienced trauma related to their parent’s arrest, social stigma, isolation, and much more.[7] FREE will help create more positive memories and anxiety free parent child meetings. CWIP focuses on decreasing depression and parent separation anxiety, improving emotional development, stopping delinquent juvenile behaviors, and stopping the cycle of incarceration.

​The Parent

Besides lowering recidivism among incarcerated parents, there is evidence that maintaining the child/parent relationship while a parent is incarcerated improves a child’s emotional response to the incarceration and encourages parent/child attachment.

The Economy

​Children who have an incarcerated parent may experience financial hardship that result from the loss of that parent’s income.[5] Further, some incarcerated parents face termination of parental rights because their children have been in the foster care system beyond the time allowed by law.[6] These children require support from local, state, and federal systems to serve their needs.

​Children involved in the CWIP program enjoy the following:

Drop-in Centers

Children and parents enjoy bonding time after school and on weekends. Along with parent/child visitation drop-in centers include art education, music education and expression, computer science and coding, dance training, and mentor sessions.

Cultural Events

Trips to the movies, museums, amusement parks, and outdoor excursions.

Visitation Trips

Weekend trips to visit incarcerated parent(s). Trips include all expense paid hotel stay, homework assistance, dinner, fun filled children’s events, one-on-one counseling sessions, and much more.

Encouragement Gifts

After each visitation children receive a stuffed animal for the trip back to the hotel, an evening of fun, and support from a trained counselor- which is by their side throughout the entire experience for support.​

Facts About Children and Incarcerated Parents:

  • 1 out of 9 African American school-aged children have an incarcerated parent.[9]
  • More than half of incarcerated parents in state prisons and almost half of parents in federal prisons have never had a personal visit from their children.[10]
  • Since 1997, the frequency of contact between children and their parents in federal prison has dropped substantially; monthly contact has decreased by 28 percent.[11]
  • Close to 10 million youth have had a mother or father—or both—spend time in incarceration.[12]
  • Between 1995 and 2005, the number of incarcerated women in the United States increased by 57 percent, compared to an increase of 34 percent for men.[13]
  • Fifty-two percent of all incarcerated men and women are parents[14] and 75 percent of incarcerated women are mothers.[15]
  • About half of children with incarcerated parents are under 10­ years ­old; 22 percent of children of state inmates and 16 percent of children of federal inmates are under 5­ years ­old.[16]
  • More than 60 percent of parents in state prison and more than 80 percent of parents in federal prison are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their last place of residence.[17]
  • Parental incarceration creates financial instability and material hardship as well as instability in family relationships and structure.[18]

[1] Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010
[2] Pew Research Center’s Economic Mobility Project
[3] La Vigne, Davies & Brazzell, 2008
[4] La Vigneetal., 2008
[5] General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2011
[6] U.S. Government Accountability Office(GAO), 2011
[7] La Vigneetal.,2008
[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC),2013; Phillips & Gleeson, 2007
[9] Ibid
​[10] Sentencing Project, 2009

[11] Sentencing Project/Research and Advocacy for Reform, 2009
[12] Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2007
[13] Bureau of Justice Statistics
[14] Sentencing Project, 2009
[15] Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, 2000
[16] Sentencing Project/Research and Advocacy for Reform, 2009
[17] Sentencing Project, 2009
​[18] Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2007