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Child welfare: More information and collaboration could promote ties between foster care children and their incarcerated parents

United States Government Accountability Office – 2011

This GAO report to Congress discusses how improved collaboration among federal and state child welfare and corrections agencies can lead to better outcomes for children in foster care who have incarcerated parents. Provides background on the problem, noting that the number of children with incarcerated parents is increasing. Reports that as many as two thirds of parents in prison have substance abuse issues. Discusses the difficulty of calculating the exact number of children in foster care with an incarcerated parent, but notes that the number exceeds 22,800. Describes several state strategies for preserving these families. They include: prevention or delay of termination of parental rights, child welfare agencies increasing involvement and contact between parents and children, corrections agencies facilitating parent-child communication and visitation (including the option of residential drug treatment for mothers with young children), and child welfare-corrections collaborative programs. Notes that state agencies could be better informed about federal resources for this population. GAO recommends improved data collection and increased awareness of federal assistance among state and local child welfare and corrections agencies. Appendix includes a section on the benefits of family-centered residential drug treatment programs, particularly for mothers with young children.