|Incarcerated mothers' perceptions of their children's situation: a descriptive and analytical study|
Zelma W. Henriques
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Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Children of women prisoners, Mother and child, Women prisoners
INCARCERATED MOTHERSĘ PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR CHILDRENĘS SITUATION: A DESCRIPTIVE AND ANALYTIC STUDY
Zelma W. Henriques
Each year in the United States, thousands of children are confronted with the sudden break-up of their homes due to maternal incarceration.
Although women make up 51 percent of the total population in the United States, they account for 15 percent of all arrests. Nonetheless, a growing number of women are becoming more involved in crime, as is evidenced by current crime statistics, as well as efforts to expand present correctional facilities to accommodate the rising increase.
It is estimated that 70 percent to 80 percent of women in prison are mothers, and that each inmate mother has two dependent children. Frequently, the care and treatment that children experience during the period of their mothersĘ incarceration can have a profound impact upon their future growth and development. In addition, society assumes both the financial as well as psychological cost of caring for children whose mothers are incarcerated. Based on the most recent statistics (1979), it is estimated that annual foster care cost per child is between
In order to investigate more thoroughly the situations confronting children whose mothers are incarcerated, this study was undertaken. A sample of thirty incarcerated mothers, as well as some children of these mothers, and the formal and informal guardians of these children were interviewed. Interviews were also held with child-welfare and criminal justice personnel, and with others who were considered knowledgeable and involved with incarcerated mothers and their children. It was felt that the perceptions of these individuals would serve to validate as well as to provide a total picture regarding the situations confronting these children.
The thirty mothers interviewed identified the following as their major concerns relating to their children: separation, placement, health care, behavioral adaptations, protection and safety, contacts, loss of maternal influence and identity, financial support, paternal involvement. Similarly, mothers expressed concern regarding their absence from special events such as their childrenĘs birthdays, graduations and confirmation. Mothers also identified education as an important concern.
Based on an analysis of the data obtained, it was found that there was a high degree of congruence in the situations as perceived and described by mothers, guardians, child welfare and criminal justice personnel. It was found that most children of incarcerated mothers were young, poor, minority and dependent on others to provide care and shape their environment. Frequently their guardians were overburdened with their own responsibilities or advanced in age, which made it difficult for them to provide adequate care. Moreover, these individuals were themselves victims of the same negative forces operating in the lives of the children. Consequently, the well-being of children whose mothers were incarcerated appeared to be in grave danger.
Unless there is positive intervention into the lives of these children, society stands to lose from the positive contributions which they might possibly have made. Moreover, society stands to gain yet another generation of children destined for the same fate, victims of the revolving door cycle.