More kids in Kentucky have parents behind bars than any other state

Imagine growing up without a parent, because that parent is in jail or prison. That is the reality for millions of children across the nation. A new Kids Count report shows Kentucky has more children with incarcerated parents than any other state.

Based on the report’s data from 2011 and 2012, 135,000 Kentucky kids have had a parent who was incarcerated. That’s 13 percent of children, which is almost double the national average and the highest percent by population in the U.S.

After 11 months in jail and years of being in and out of the system, Meagan Kantola is used to a life locked behind doors. 

"They miss they’re momma just like I miss them. It’s sad," Kantola said.

Her children have had to get use to it too, just like she did when her mother was in and out of jail growing up.

The Child Watch Advocacy Center is run on donations from fundraisers, like a golf tournament held on Monday.

"It supports the little girl who was in seven different foster homes by the time she was 6 years old," Child Watch Executive Director Lee Emmons said. 

The center helps children without stable homes deal with trauma. Emmons said a parent’s incarceration has lasting impacts on a child.

"We all need to realize how much adverse child experiences, how much affect they have," Emmons said.

The report shows too many nonviolent offenders are arrested in Kentucky, which leads to more parents ending up in jails. Emmons said it’s important to stop the cycle at a young age.

"We need to teach them maybe, in some cases, a new normal," Emmons said.

Kantola gets out of jail in six days. 

"I’m sick of watching my kids grow up through a glass. I’m sick of it and they’re sick of it," she said.

She’s ready to be there for her children to keep their lives on track.

The Kentucky General Assembly has passed legislation designed to bring down the state’s prison population, incarceration costs and crime. That is House Bill 463, which passed in 2011.

Kids Count numbers show that, in Illinois 6, percent of children have had a parent who was incarcerated. Missouri had 7 percent, and Tennessee was above the national average with 10 percent.

If you want to help, head to Child Watch Counseling and Advocacy Center.

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