Focus and Focus+ Icon

If dad is in prison, will his children end up in foster care?

Past research has shown numerous adverse effects of parental imprisonment on children. In the United States, studies have found that paternal imprisonment is associated with children’s poor school performance; behavioral and mental health problems; crime, delinquency, and criminal justice contact; and worse health, including higher rates of obesity for girls and greater infant mortality, than children without an incarcerated parent. One possible consequence that has received relatively little research attention to date is how parental incarceration affects children’s risks of foster care placement. Foster care is an important experience, for children because it is a form of instability, and for society because of the costs associated with administering out-of-home care. Prior research on the relationship between parental incarceration and foster care has focused solely on maternal incarceration, and has generally not considered whether parental incarceration is a causal factor in foster care placement. This article describes new research that addresses these gaps by: (1) providing an explanation for how paternal incarceration may increase placement of children in foster care; (2) conducting strong causal tests of this relationship; and (3) investigating possible mechanisms by which it might work. This study uses data from Denmark.


Children, Children General, Incarceration, Justice System


, ,