The mother-child dyads that intersect with the criminal justice and child welfare systems face many risk factors. Children of women involved in criminal justice may be at greater risk for involvement in the child welfare system than children of fathers involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, a greater proportion of women in the criminal justice system, as compared to men, experience multiple risk factors simultaneously.
The aim of this dissertation was to explore the relationship between the child welfare and criminal justice systems, as well as the role of maternal cumulative risk on the outcomes of involved mother/child dyads, building upon previous research using data from a sample of pregnant women sentenced to state prison and follow-up data obtained ten years later from multiple state-level administrative databases. Child welfare outcomes of children from high and low maternal cumulative risk groups were compared, and case studies were used to explore the movement of children into and within the child welfare system
Results suggest that the presence of systematic barriers make it difficult to navigate the criminal justice and child welfare systems at the same time. The application of a cumulative risk framework further differentiates those with the highest risk and greatest likelihood of negative outcomes. Cross-system collaboration between criminal justice and child welfare systems is needed in order to provide targeted intervention aimed at the high risk mother-child dyads who are trying to navigate these systems simultaneously. In addition, collaboration is essential to systematic data collection to allow researchers to better understand the scope of this issue.