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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Parenting Roles And Experiences Of Abuse In Women Offenders: Review Of The Offender Intake Assessments

Childcare arrangements during mothers' incarceration

Table 5 shows living arrangements for children during their mothers' incarceration for the sample of women in OIAs Review study. In some instances each of a woman's children may have different living arrangements. For instance, one of her children may be with his/her father, whereas another may be living with his/her grandparents. For that reason, the same woman may be represented more than once in Table 5.

Table 5

Children's Living Arrangements During Mothers' Incarceration


OIAs Review





Children's grandparents



Children's father



Foster home/CAS ward






Mother's friend





( .7)

Grown up & live apart



All adopted out at early age






Note. A woman may be represented more than once if she had different childcare arrangements for her children and for that reason percentages do not sum to 100.

a In the case of 46 women, there was no information for any of their children's living arrangements.

Given that the Survey did not provide numerical estimates of the childcare arrangements women had for their children during incarceration, a comparison of the two studies was not possible. However, the Survey stated that "following their mothers imprisonment, most adult children were now living on their own, and younger children were in the majority of cases being cared for by relatives - usually grandparents or grandmothers. The next most common arrangement was fostering, the remainder were with ex-husbands or ex-common law partners and a few with friends" (Shaw et al., 1990, p. 13). In the OIAs Review, the most frequent arrangement corresponded to that of the Survey, that is, grandparents were primary careproviders of at least one child in the case of 30.8% of women with children. In most cases, the careproviders were the women's own parents or, even more frequently, just their own mothers. The second most common arrangement in this study was that at least one child lived with his/her father during the mother's incarceration. The third most common arrangement in the OIAs Review study was foster care.

These findings refer not only to children who lived with their mothers full time prior to incarceration, but also to those who had lived with someone other than the mother before she came into conflict with the law. In the latter case, living arrangements of these children did not change due to the mother's incarceration. On the other hand, some children went through major changes due to the fact that until their mother's incarceration, she was their only careprovider. In the case of those children who lived with both parents, some stayed with their fathers upon the mother's incarceration, whereas others were moved into different living arrangements.