Australian adult prisoner numbers continue to rise to what have been described as unprecedented and unsustainable levels. Research highlights that there are wide-ranging consequences of incarceration for families, and particularly for children. Despite the available research describing the negative impact of parental incarceration on children, it has been argued that these children remain virtually invisible to policy makers and social programs. Using a combination of policy analyses and findings from a research project undertaken in the Australian Capital Territory aimed at identifying the needs of children who have a parent in prison, we examine how this group of children is constructed and responded to by the systems that surround the children. It is argued that it is only when children are seen in a more holistic way that systems can respond more collaboratively to effectively support children. IMPLICATIONS Children of prisoners have needed to rely on adults to recognise the problem of parental incarceration and petition for them. It is time for those who inform and develop social policy to consider the impact of current policies on children. It is only when children are seen in a more holistic way that systems can respond more collaboratively to effectively support them.