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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Erin Comartin


Approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. An estimated 8% of children in foster care were removed because of parental incarceration, with a similar percentage annually for the past five years. Research has shown that 1 in 8 of these cases, incarcerated parents lose their parental rights, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses. The lack of coordination between systems has presented the majority of the barriers to contact between the incarcerated parents and children. And with the passing of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997, this task has become increasingly challenging. The unintended effect of the passage of the Adoption and Safe Family Act on incarcerated parents demonstrate the intersectionality of societal issues and the need for cross system collaboration when creating public policy. Parental incarceration and foster care experience have both been shown to have to many adverse outcomes for children. Yet, little research exists on children who experience both. This dissertation aims to examine the internalizing and externalizing problems, school performance and behavioral outcomes for children with foster experience with an incarcerated parent. Similarly, considering the unintended implication of the ASFA for incarcerated parents, this dissertation will also perform a comprehensive review of policies that have been enacted to maintain and reinstate the rights of incarcerated parents. This dissertation focuses on the interface of criminal legal and child welfare public policies, not only examining the negative outcomes of children caught between them and what is being done at a policy level to help mitigate them.

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