Children serve punishment along with their criminally convicted parents serving jail or prison sentences.
In the middle of what seemed an ordinary school day, Angel and her sisters suddenly found themselves in foster care.
“I was 12 when I went to prison,” Angel said. She refers to her time in foster care as a “sentence.”
Although her mother was the one in jail, Angel felt like she was there along with her mother behind bars.
“Visits to see Mom … were rare. Even when I managed to find an adult to take me, I wished I didn’t have to love her this way. Pressing the black visitation phone to my ear, only tears escaped. With a glass wall between us, we used the time to silently fall apart, together.”
In an article she wrote for State of Mind, a section of Slate, she shares the story of how her mother’s incarceration affected her and those of her siblings.
“I was hopeful when Child Protective Services eventually got involved, but they only made a bad situation worse,” Angel wrote.
She and her twin sister had no choice but to grow up and take on the role of parenting their younger siblings while their mother was in prison.
Angel wrote about how scarce opportunities became for her mother once she had a criminal record, and the scarcity of opportunities contributed to other maladaptive behavior.
She referred to grim statistics detailing the future prospects of children of incarcerated parents, including poor performance in school and the likelihood of incarceration later in life.
Although she endured much tragedy in her life, there is a bright spot — her resilience.
Angel’s resiliency enabled her to overcome, to a degree, the bleak prospects of children growing up in foster care with addicted and incarcerated parents.
At the end of her article, she describes some of the lifelong effects of childhood traumatic experiences and their influence on an individual’s personality.
“I still flinch when someone knocks too loudly at the door, because that’s how the police and social workers always arrived,” she wrote.
“I was 12 when I went to prison. I wonder when I’ll be free,” Angel wrote.