Overview and Inventory of HHS Efforts to Assist Incarcerated and Reentering Individuals and their Families . Family Formation


Incarceration severely affects intimate relationships, including those with partners and children, by creating barriers to intimacy, family involvement, and economic contributions. Western (2004) documents that incarceration affects family formation. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, he found that formerly incarcerated men are just as likely to have children as other men of the same age; however, they are less likely to marry and those who do are more likely to separate and divorce. In exploratory work, Eirik Evenhouse and Siobhan Reilly (2010) found a positive correlation over time and across Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), between the probability that a mother has had children by more than one man and the lagged arrest rate in her MSA. The correlation is stronger among racial and educational subgroups that experience higher rates of multiple-father fertility. Both poverty and incarceration are factors likely contributing to this finding.

The Office of Family Assistance (OFA), through its Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood discretionary grant program, has funded 27 projects that provide parenting and family strengthening services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated fathers and their partners. Some of these grants provide support to increase economic stability, including financial literacy. Twelve of the grant projects are part of a rigorous implementation and impact evaluation managed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) to determine the effect of family strengthening services on family functioning, recidivism and employment outcomes. The implementation evaluation will be released in the late early fall of 2011. Briefs highlighting interim findings will be published periodically leading up to the release of the final impact study report in 2014.

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