Regaining child custody after release from prison

Studies show that black women are more likely to go to prison than white women, and more than half who are incarcerated are mothers to minor children. In California, to better understand how black women cope with regaining child custody after prison, an 18-month study was conducted by a sociologist. The focus was to see how women who were incarcerated dealt with poverty, gender and race that makes them more susceptible to interference from the criminal justice system and Child Protective Services.

Black women who have been recently released from prison often develop strategies for dealing with the looming threat from state agencies. In a published article, the author outlined these strategies and termed them “decarceral motherwork.” Women who want to resume parenting often struggle with state interference over child custody. They will hide their mental illness and drug addiction and anything else to prevent their children from being taken away.

A common misconception is the welfare queen stereotype, which paints black women as careless parents who are often drug-addicted and hypersexual. Most believe that their primary goals in life are to not have to work and to lead an extravagant lifestyle through state funds. The sociologist who conducted the study deduced that black mothers who served time in jail are being set up to fail by a system that demands that, besides mothering their children, they become productive employees and obtain financial stability.

Having a mother who is incarcerated is difficult for everyone involved. Children often suffer trauma from having a parent in prison. Families in California, who have questions about child custody may contact an attorney who can answer questions and help guide them through this difficult time.  

Source:, “Prison Can Have Far-Reaching Effects on How Black Women Parent ??? Precinct Reporter Group News”, Tess Eyrich, March 3, 2018

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