The arrest of a parent can have a significant impact on a child whether or not the child is present at the time of the arrest. Depending on age and quality of the relationship with the parent, children may feel shock, immense fear, anxiety, or anger towards the arresting officers or law enforcement in general. Over the past two decades, increasing emphasis has been placed on examination of the effects of these events on children of various ages and the ways in which law enforcement can make sure that an involved child doesn’t “fall through the cracks.” Research clearly indicates that such events can and often do have a negative impact on a child’s immediate and long-term emotional, mental, social, and physical health. Symptoms such as sleep disruptions, separation anxiety, irritability, and even more serious disorders or post-traumatic reactions have been documented. In addition, later problems with authority figures in general and law enforcement in particular can arise if officers or other service providers do not take the time to address the needs of the child. Time taken with a child under these trauma producing circumstances is time well spent. The kindness and assistance of an officer with a child creates lasting impressions even among very young children. Treating a child with compassion and thoughtfulness is not only the proper thing to do, it is also a hallmark of good policing that can have long-term positive benefits for the child and the community.
Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents