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Incarcerated Women, Their Children, and the Nexus with Foster Care

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2011
146 pages
This report, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, examined the problem of incarcerated women, their children, and their experiences with the foster care system in Illinois.
The major findings in this report include: 75 percent of children in foster care have been there for more than a year prior to their mother's first prison stay; reunification is unlikely if the child's foster care overlaps with the mother's time in prison; the labor market outcomes of incarcerated mothers whose children spend time in foster care are worse than other incarcerated women both before and after prison, and time served in prison is not strongly associated with reunification rates. This report presents the results of a project that merged administrative databases from different State agencies in Illinois in to one large database that would provide a more complete picture of the incarceration, employment, social, and child welfare histories of women and their children. The project had five primary objectives: 1) to provide an in depth description of the data; 2) compare children's experiences in the foster care system in the database to statistics on the experiences of all children in the foster care system; 3) describe the timing and dynamics of foster care spells of incarcerated mothers; 4) compared incarcerated women who were in the foster care system as children with their counterparts who did not enter the child welfare system as children; and 5) to improve the quality of the matches between prison spells, foster care spells, and several labor market outcomes of the women both before and after their first prison spells. References, tables, and figures

Date Published: April 1, 2011