Incarceration and the Family: A Review of Research and Promising Approaches for Serving Fathers and Families. 6.3 Involvement in the Child Welfare System


Another challenge to father-child relationships is that some children are placed into the child welfare system during the father’s imprisonment. Although the proportion of children of incarcerated fathers in foster care is smaller than that of  children of incarcerated mothers (approximately 2% compared to 10%), the number of children is actually larger because there are about ten times the number of incarcerated fathers. (Travis, McBride, & Solomon, 2003; Glaze and Maruschak, 2008). It is often hard for fathers to locate their children when they are in foster care, making it even more difficult for these fathers to reconnect with their children upon reentry (Hairston, 1998, 2001; Jeffries et al., 2001; Travis et al., 2003). In addition, case workers who attempt to contact nonresident fathers regarding their children’s placements face numerous obstacles which are typically exacerbated by a father’s current or recent incarceration (Malm, Murray & Geen, 2006). Incarcerated fathers are rarely involved in decisions regarding the placement of their children (Hairston, 1998, 2001). These issues have led researchers to call for policies that are more sensitive to the desires of fathers to be involved in such decisions and for further integration of corrections and child welfare systems (Malm, Murray & Geen, 2006; Hairston, 1998, 2001; Rossman, 2001). Conway & Hutson, (2007) suggest that child welfare agencies should provide supports for parent-child reunification when the parent of a child in foster care is incarcerated.  Suggested support services include: case planning for economic stability, including services to help released parents of children in foster care obtain employment; services to strengthen parent-child relationships, such as parenting education and special visitation programs; and mental health and substance abuse treatment.

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