Role of Infant Mental Health Professionals

Parental incarceration is a potential source of trauma for infants and young children. However, there are often overlooked protective factors that can build resilience. Infant and children mental health professionals can help families identify those protective factors and connect them to the appropriate resources.

Recommendations for IMH

When supporting children and families IMH professionals should use Trauma Informed Care (TIC). Models of TIC  principles may vary across organizations, below is a link to a module created by  Alberta Health Services. 

Six principles of Trauma Informed Care: Awareness of Trauma, Look at trauma through the eyes of each individual, create safety and trust, choice and collaboration, focus on  the strengths of the individual, and recovery from trauma is possible (Alberta Health Services, n.d.).


  1. I recommend connecting children to community programs that provide them with trusted adults, encourage mental and physical health, connect them to peers. Although children themselves are victims of parental incarceration, they face isolation and stigma. Referrals to programs designed for children with trauma, encouraging participation in sports, music and arts,  and overall involvement in the community may strengthen socio-emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive development.
  2. Responding to trauma from the perspective of a helper: validating traumatized children and families, non-judgemental attitude, provide support instead of dictating.
  3. Understanding the complex issues of incarcerated parents and their families e.g., Substance abuse, unemployment, domestic abuse and how they influence one another.
  4. Looking at mental health and criminal justice system in anti-discriminatory and anti- racist framework

Future Research

1.More research specific to the Canadian correctional system and the long-term effects of parental incarceration on children and families.

2.Research on maternal incarceration must match the growth of female incarceration, especially since maternal and children’s health are deeply intertwined. Further research should include prenatal care in prisons, maternal mental health, and the impact of duration of maternal absence on attachment.

3. Research early-childhood  trauma in high-risk populations and diverse communities.