We use administrative data to examine the temporal relationship between maternal incarceration and foster care
placement among incarcerated mothers and their children in Cook County, Illinois. We also compare the discharge
outcomes of foster children whose mothers were incarcerated to the discharge outcomes of all foster children in Illinois.
We found that more than three quarters of the children who entered foster care did so prior to the mother’s first observed
incarceration and that children whose mothers had been incarcerated were more likely to be adopted and less likely to be
reunified than foster children generally. The implications of these findings for both the child welfare and criminal justice
systems are discussed.