The impact of parental incarceration on children’s care: Identifying good practice principles from the perspective of imprisoned primary carer parents

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Parental incarceration has wide-ranging impacts on families. One key effect may be disruption to the care and legal custody of children, yet few studies have examined processes and outcomes relating to care planning for children of prisoners. This paper presents findings of interviews with 151 primary carer prisoners in two Australian states which aimed to address this research gap. The study examined care planning for children upon parental arrest, sentencing and imprisonment, stability of care arrangements and primary carer prisoners' involvement and satisfaction with care planning. Around one third of prisoners had discussions regarding children's care arrangements at arrest and imprisonment, although the issue was more commonly raised at sentencing. While there was much variation in the stability of care arrangements, children placed in out-of-home care experienced the most instability. A minority of prisoners reported being involved in care planning and decision-making for children upon imprisonment, and around one third rated care planning process poorly. Prisoners were more satisfied with care planning when there were fewer movements of children, where prisoners felt involved with decision-making, and when police officers, lawyers and corrections staff inquired about the welfare of their children. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)952-962
Number of pages11
JournalChild & Family Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • arrest
  • care planning
  • children of prisoners
  • decision-making
  • sentencing

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