As the crippling coronavirus shutdown heads into its seventh month, children of incarcerated parents remain even more isolated from their loved ones behind bars – a still largely invisible population under special strain during COVID-19.
Visitations with family members at prisons and jails have been largely suspended since the pandemic began in March, advocates said at a virtual event on Tuesday, while millions of children across the country struggle with the stigma of incarceration and the emotional toll of separation during exceptionally terrifying times.
“It feels like if I was in a position like my father’s in, being locked up, isolated from the outside world,” said Anthony Funes, a college student who participates in a youth group for the children of incarcerated parents through the Osborne Association, a nonprofit supporting families affected by the criminal justice system in New York.
Fuentes said the strain of maintaining connection with his dad and keeping up with school during the pandemic has left him reeling at times.
Members of a panel organized by the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the Bay Area Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership underscored the challenges faced by Fuentes and other children of the imprisoned, and called for called for more awareness of their plight and greater support of approaches to keep them connected to family – from more opportunities for letter writing to after school programs.
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