Using Local Data to Explore the Experiences and Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents

The Urban Institute

Using data acquired by local research organizations in Pittsburgh, Pa., Providence, R.I., and Chicago, Ill., Urban Institute researchers merged and analyzed local and state data to understand better the experiences and needs of children whose parents are in jail, and to explore the involvement of such families with the criminal justice, child welfare and social welfare systems.

They found that the dynamics of parental incarceration vary from locality to locality. Both Pittsburgh and Chicago had a substantial overlap between families involved in the foster care and justice systems; but the findings in both cities also suggested that a mother’s arrest does not always automatically result in foster care placement, and that placement may be occurring for other reasons. In Providence, a different type of analysis found that children of incarcerated mothers were disproportionately from low-income neighborhoods where their mothers faced significant challenges. The research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Free, 14 pages. (202) 833-7200,


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