Bridging the Gap: Maintaining Connections Between Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

By Morteza SahebkarAugust 17, 2021

Bridging the Gap: Maintaining Connections Between Incarcerated Parents and Their Children

No fewer than 5 million kids around the nation share the same experience: They grow up as children of incarcerated parents.

Having a parent in prison can impact children in several ways. First, they might feel an emotional burden that friends can’t understand. This leads some kids to act out at home or school in an effort to make sense of their worlds. Additionally, they might find themselves in unstable living situations, which can create a sense of social imbalance and relationship instability.

However, kids whose parents are incarcerated don’t have to go through months or years of emotional ups and downs. In fact, those who maintain a strong bond with their incarcerated mom or dad routinely fare better than those who do not.

Keeping in close contact with an incarcerated parent has its challenges, not the least of which is distance. Case in point: The majority of incarcerated folks in state prison serve their sentences at least 100 miles from their hometowns, making it tough for loved ones to visit in person. And many jails, detention centers, and related facilities have strict rules regarding visitation. Some allow kids to visit only during limited hours, while others may not allow children to visit at all.

So are children of incarcerated parents limited to the occasional traditional phone call and old-fashioned mail? Not necessarily. Remote inmate video calls can remove many of the barriers to visitation — transportation issues and financial hardship among them. Simultaneously, video visits take away some of the scariness and harshness of walking into what can feel like an unfriendly prison atmosphere.

Strengthening the Child-Parent Bond With Remote Video Calls. Video calls are one of the most cost-effective, appealing resources for families of inmates. To prepare for these events, caregivers of children of incarcerated parents can keep the following tips in mind:

Start visiting through remote inmate-initiated video calls, if possible. Of course, most prisons aren’t designed with children in mind. Many youngsters end up fearing visits with their incarcerated parent after initially being exposed to a jail environment, given its surveillance and strict rules.

With that, caregivers might want to limit kids’ in-person visits and opt for more video calls, at least until the idea of having a parent in prison becomes “normal.” These calls help kids get accustomed to their parents’ surroundings and routines before meeting again face to face.

Explain what the child will experience on the call. The good news is that even young children have some comfort with video calls thanks to regular Zoom and FaceTime sessions during COVID-19. Regardless, they deserve to be prepared for a phone conversation with their incarcerated family member. Very young children might just want to say hello and then leave. Older kids can be encouraged to have drawings, stuffed animals, and other items handy to show to their parents to encourage more natural conversation.

Add on-site lobby visits after a few video calls. The longer a parent is incarcerated, the more important it can be for them to see their kids — and vice versa. Plan for the day by familiarizing yourself with the prison’s regulations, including any documentation you need. Then, explain to the child what’s going to happen to ease feelings of anxiety and worry. Find out all you can (like whether hugs are allowed or if a glass window will separate everyone in the visitation room). You can usually find this information on the jail’s website or via a simple call to the facility.

The more information a child has upfront, the more he or she will be able to enjoy being with mom or dad again for a little while.

Encourage quick drop-in video calls between remote calls and in-person visits. One of the hardest aspects for incarcerated parents is missing out on the little moments: a kiss before bedtime, a quick text to catch up midday, etc.

Thankfully, these tiny but important encounters are still possible with video calls from prison. The HomeWAV system has been set up to allow for mini check-ins whenever an inmate is able to use the kiosk. That way, parents and kids feel able to connect almost whenever they want, as long as it’s within the prison’s guidelines.

At the same time, HomeWAV’s one-minute fee structure also makes these kinds of calls easier, as there’s no minimum call length or connection fee. Why pay an expensive first-minute rate when you’re only calling to say goodnight? Children can sign off or say “I love you” to a parent — from the comfort of their own home — for the price of a one-minute visit.

Plan for the next video call at the end of each visit. It can be hard to end any type of visit with an incarcerated loved one. One way to make the process easier for everyone is toverbally discuss when to make the next video call at the end of the last one. Kids can add the date to the calendar, giving them something to look forward to. Their incarcerated parent will appreciate being able to plan for the next visit, too. It’s much gentler on everyone’s emotions to be able to say “See you on Monday,” rather than simply “Goodbye.”

The effects of parental incarceration on children and families are incredibly real. However, a balance of plenty of remote calls and some in-person visits can take away the sting of having a parent be away for a while.

At HomeWAV, we provide a one-minute billing structure that allows for calls of any length at any time — no expensive first-minute fees required. Plus, our second-to-none support team operates year-round to provide support, compassion, and insight. In total, HomeWAV offers the best video technology, lowest rates in the industry, and a per-minute billing cycle. Incarcerated parents and kids deserve the chance to create and maintain loving, lasting bonds.

Experience the HomeWAV difference: Create your free HomeWAV account today, or reach out to our dedicated support team via phone (1-844-394-6639) or email ( if an issue occurs or you need help understanding a facility’s policies. Customer support for friends and family of incarcerated loved ones operates 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST).

Interested in learning more about how HomeWAV can help you? Reach out to us today by clicking here!