Mothers and fathers in the criminal justice system and children's child protective services involvement.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Parental criminal justice system (CJS) involvement is a marker for child protective services (CPS) involvement.


To document how parental criminal case processing affects children's CPS involvement.

Participants and setting

Participants included mothers and fathers with a serious criminal charge (mothers = 78,882; fathers = 165,070) and without any criminal charge (mothers = 962,963; fathers = 743,604) between 2008-2012. Statewide North Carolina records on court proceedings, births, CPS assessments/investigations, and foster care placements were used.


The observational unit was an individual's first charge date of a year. Outcomes were CPS assessment/investigation and foster care entry within six months and alternatively three years following the charge. Key explanatory variables were whether the charges resulted in prosecution, conviction following prosecution, and an active sentence conditional on conviction. An instrumental variables approach was used.


Parents charged with a criminal offense had higher rates of having a CPS assessment/investigation during the three years preceding the charge than parents who were not charged. Among mothers who were convicted, CPS assessment/investigation increased 8.1 percent (95 % CI: 2.2, 13.9) and 9.5 percent (95 % CI: 1.3, 17.6) 6 months and 3 years following the charge. An active sentence increased CPS assessment/investigations by 21.6 percent (95 % CI: 6.4, 36.7) within 6 months. For fathers, active sentence increased foster care placement by 1.6 percent (95 % CI: 0.24, 2.9) within 6 months of the criminal charge.


Changing parental incarceration rates would change CPS caseloads substantially. The criminal justice and CPS systems work with overlapping populations, data and services sharing should be considered a high priority.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gifford, EJ; Evans, KE; Eldred Kozecke, L; Sloan, FA

Published Date

  • March 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 101 /

Start / End Page

  • 104306 -

PubMed ID

  • 32004822

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7672507

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-7757

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0145-2134

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104306


  • eng