In the Best Interests of the Child: Strategies for Recognizing and Supporting Canada’s At-Risk Population of Children with Incarcerated Parents

Children whose parents are incarcerated have been acknowledged internationally as a vulnerable population facing serious challenges. In 2011, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child convened a Day of General Discussion on Children with Incarcerated Parents during which it was stressed that the best interests of children must be considered throughout the criminal justice system processing of their parent (Robertson, 2012). Although Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children of criminally incarcerated parents are an invisible population in Canada. As official statistics do not appear to be consistently collected in Canada, the size of this at-risk population is currently unknown. However, given an increasing rate of pre-trial detention and incarceration of women, Aboriginal people, and foreign-born persons in Canada (Babooram, 2008; Sapers, 2013), many of whom are parents, the size of the affected population of children is likely growing. This report is the result of a project assessing the available policies, programs, and practices concerning children with incarcerated parents. The information collected for this report was largely collated from literature reviews, as well as consultations conducted with government and nongovernmental agencies across Canada. In addition, feedback gathered from a day-long expert working group on children with incarcerated parents conducted by the UFV Centre for Safety Schools and Communities in December 2013 was integrated into the final report.

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