Coping With A Parent In Prison - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Coping With A Parent In Prison

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WMDT 47 News - Murder and other serious crimes can tear apart families, and not just the family of the victim , but that of the offender as well.         

"Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more common, that we're working with children who's parents have been incarcerated," says Dr. Mark Todd, a Salisbury based child psychologist.

According to Dr. Todd, about one in twenty eight children has a parent who's been incarcerated, up from one in 250 just 25 years ago.

That's the case for Toby (11) and Dylan Phillips (12), the young sons of Charles Phillips, the man convicted in the 2008 murder William Nibblett.

Charles Phillips ex-wife, Michele, reached out to WMDT Thursday to share their story. 

"The kids were really young when this started back in '08.  Here we are, 5 years later, obviously they're in middle school at this point," says Michele of her now preteen sons, "they go through the ridicule."

An often overlooked consequence of a parent's decision "the child might feel some shame or embarrassment about what the parent has done.   A lot of times the when these events occur, it's very public, it's in the news lot of times the when these events occur, it's very public, it's in the news.  So, the child is getting comments or questions from other people, so I think that's hard for the child to cope with," says Dr. Todd.

Gathered around a family computer with his older brother and mother, for an interview via Skype, eleven year-old Toby says "well I guess you could say it's been kind of stressful for us.  People wondering where our dad is...asking questions."

Michele, her two sons, and a seven year-old daughter are now trying to move on.  They moved off Delmarva some years ago, and she's since remarried. 

Twelve year old Dylan, who's actual first name is Charles, says he's trying to get that legally changed, "well, I don't really like everybody asking why is your name Charlie."  His mother chimes in, "it's hard for him because the do identify him by that.  It's one of those things that's going to follow him throughout life."

Michele says she hopes telling their story will other families who might be going through similar struggles.

"Everybody's responsible for their own actions," she says "I want other parents to know their kids can grow up to be productive members of society."

Dr. Todd stresses the importance of keeping an eye on how a child is coping with having a parent in prison, "if they're having difficulties coping, either taking them to a counselor, or to get extra assistance.  There are some programs that help the families cope with that experience."

To learn more about resources for children and families with a loved one behind bars, visit The National Resource Center on Children & Families of the Incarcerated online.

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