Children With Incarcerated Family Members: Using Supportive Language

Children who have incarcerated family members already face stigma, and they may mistrust systems – even those that are supposed to be caring, such as pediatric health care institutions and offices.

So it’s especially important that pediatric providers avoid language, such as “felon” or “prisoner” that dehumanizes those family members, writes Kelly Kelleher, MD, vice president of Community Health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Rosemary Martoma, MD, president of KidsMates, a nonprofit organization focused on childhood equity.

“In pediatric practices, clinicians should avoid dehumanizing labels and instead focus on relationships to describe family members with criminal justice involvement: father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc.,” they write.