The family reentry experiences of previously incarcerated mothers: A qualitative study
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to use a phenomenological approach to gain an informed perspective on the lived experiences of formerly incarcerated mothers. An additional focus was given to what these mothers found to be strengths during this transition. Utilizing a family systems framework, semi-structured interviews were completed with 14 mothers experiencing reentry. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim by the researcher. The transcriptions were then categorized and analyzed for emerging themes. Findings included four themes and subsequent subthemes: (1) Reentry is Challenging: Preparation Before Release; Walking on Eggshells; Reentry Obligations; Financial Strain, Rebuilding Trust; (2) Motherhood is a Hindrance to Reentry: Reentry Obligations Versus Children’s Needs; Key Conversations With Children; Impact of Reentry on Children; and Maternal Guilt; (3) Motherhood is a Motivator for Reentry: Breaking The Chain; Children As Encouragement; and Not Giving Up; and (4) Strengths For Successful Reentry: Inner Strengths; Spirituality; Support Networks; and Reentry Services. Implications for policy are discussed and recommendations are offered for family therapists and other professionals working with this population and their families.