Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Janice Kelly, Ed.D

Second Supervisor

Frances Wills, Ed.D


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated mothers taking over as primary caregivers post-incarceration and their experiences with parenting programs during their imprisonment. The population of female prisoners is the fastest growing population in the United States. Eighty percent of incarcerated women are mothers with children 18 and under. This research project sought to address the social and personal circumstances that ex-offending mothers experience during and post-incarceration and their ability to adapt and rebuild relationships with their families. The study population consisted of formerly incarcerated mothers, between the ages of 38 to 57, who served a minimum of 5 years in prison and had at least one child during their incarceration. Using data from face-to-face interviews with four formerly incarcerated mothers, six themes emerged. The themes were survival, emotional and support services, self-improvement, trauma, safety and well-being of children, and motherhood. The answers to the research questions concluded that for these participants visitation was the key contributing factor to their ability to parent while incarcerated and transition into caregiver post-release. Findings suggest the need for the development of parenting programs and additional support services for incarcerated mothers and their families to assist in the reunification process in order to keep families together. Despite limited access to parenting programs, participants expressed their desire to have had these services while incarcerated and strongly encourage the development of such programs to assist incarcerated mothers and their family maintain family ties and stay connected.

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