Presentation on theme: "IMPRISONED MOTHERS: OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR REBUILDING MOTHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS."— Presentation transcript:
IMPRISONED MOTHERS: OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR REBUILDING MOTHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS
OVERVIEW Issues facing imprisoned mothers Background to project Findings from initial prisoner focus group Attributes of prisoners participating Care arrangements for children Social Services – Vicious Circle Mediation Interventions – Indirect Contact Positive Parenting Groups Feedback from prisoner focus group
ISSUES FACING IMPRISONED MOTHERS Women = 6% of UK prison population, approx. 65% have dependent children 1 Fewer female prisons – harder to visit – less open prisons – less resources e.g. for parent support Only 5 % of children whose mothers are in prison remain in their own homes, 9% cared for by fathers = stress (90% of children with father stay with mother) 2 Fewer female prisoners = more stigma – disowned by their own extended families
BACKGROUND TO PROJECT Community based parenting interventions in a prison context – DfES funding HMP Buckley Hall to HMP Styal Practicalities – keys, link personnel / allies, venue, Child Protection / Security screening, networking, credibility with Probation Department. Publicity How project fitted in with HMP Styals wider resettlement agenda – Drop In Centre
INITIAL PRISONER FOCUS GROUP Real hunger for parenting interventions – recognition that practical and emotional assistance needed Consensus that problematic behaviour, e.g. fighting, assaults on staff and self harm were driven by guilt / tension / anxiety arising from not seeing children Status as mothers ignored during sentence – part of identity missing No safe space to engage with these complex feelings
ATTRIBUTES OF PARTICPATING PRISONERS Experienced Domestic Violence / Abuse Drugs background factor in offending Coercion from partner significant to offending Isolation – from partners, and own family – disowned as result of offending & stigma Known to Social Services – not CP offences Low self esteem – compounded by guilt arising from offending / imprisonment
CARE ARRANGEMENTS FOR CHILDREN With family members – e.g. partner (rare), grandparents (most common), sister / brother. Arrangements generally ratified by Social Services, often with Residence Orders in place Sometimes children were accommodated by Social Services e.g. in foster care Whatever care arrangement, always checked if SSD involved – and if so sought their view – difficult and time consuming
ISSUES RELATING TO SOCIAL SERVICES Dismissive of positive impact of parenting interventions on imprisoned mothers capacity to change – cynicism /scepticism Relief that children safe – do not wish to rock the boat View of contact – defer to carer No resources to assist with contact Ask her to come and see me when she is released – then well see if she has changed!
VICIOUS CIRCLE : IMPRISONED MOTHERS AND SOCIAL WORKERS Imprisoned mothers feel despised by Social Workers Embarrassed by past mistakes Reluctant to make contact Negative views of Social Workers confirmed
ISSUES RELATING TO SOCIAL SERVICES - Contd Sometimes not keeping mother informed – e.g. of review meetings, and proposed Residence Orders / Adoption plans Out of Sight, out of mind mentality Contact by parenting worker catalyst for better communication with Social Worker NB – some notable exceptions – where empathy demonstrated by Social Workers towards imprisoned mothers Are imprisoned mothers judged more harshly than imprisoned fathers?
INDIRECT CONTACT Letter writing / phone contact advice Sometimes letters full of frustration and even blame towards carers – not shown to children by carers Mediator assisted mother to build empathy for carers viewpoint – e.g. Grandparents - stress of caring for children late in life / sister brother - difficulty integrating child/ren into their family Individual time helped mothers to see the needs of their child and the carers
INDIRECT CONTACT Ideal letter / phone contact structure: - Appreciation of good job carers doing in looking after child/ren - Expression of hope that child was behaving well for carers - Positive news of activities in prison –e.g. work or education - Invitation to child to share news - NB – many prisoners wrote good letters from the outset too
INDIRECT CONTACT Mothers recording DVDs for children Very emotional Support – Preparation - Rehearsal Advice similar to letters Working with imprisoned mother on her own needs Working with her to assist her to see the needs of her childrens carers Security / logistical issues to overcome
POSITIVE PARENTING COURSES Relaxed group setting – up to 15 prisoners 2 facilitators Coverage of issues such as childrens needs, discipline and boundaries Combination of facilitator input, sharing in small and large groups, flip chart work Most powerful aspect support from and challenge by other prisoners More application to group tasks by prisoners than parents in the community
FEEDBACK FROM CLOSING PRISONER FOCUS GROUP Huge appreciation of having space to affirm their identity as parents – nowhere else to do this Needed safe space to remove mask that was needed to survive prison Removing mask equated to being emotionally vulnerable Facing up to and letting in guilt arising from parenting deficiencies very cathartic – but needed to end on light note prior to going back to main prison
FEEDBACK FROM PRISONER FOCUS GROUP Sharing of the frustrating reality of parenting from behind bars – toilet anecdote – processing in group v. helpful Putting problems to the group v.helpful – dealing with boundaries and requests for money Wanted group to last for longer Negative views of those in authority – gatekeepers of their contact – Social Workers
CONCLUSION: BARRIERS / OPPORTUNITIES MISSED Structural – less prisons – less resources Physical – distance from children Organisational cultures – negativity Emotional – guilt and embarrassment at their past mistakes reinforced by negative views of workers – causing low self esteem and motivation Prison Parent Support Services can address parenting deficits S.Workers need to change their out of sight, out of mind attitude for full benefit
REFERENCES 1.Carlen and Worrall (2004), Analysing Womens Imprisonment, Devon, Willan Publishing. 2. Caddle & Crisp (1997), Imprisoned Women and Mothers, London, Home Office.