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VACRO In the Frame Women and Families- Working with the Missing Pieces Violet Lotter Women, Children, Family Services Manager Gen Anderson Women’s Support.

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Presentation on theme: "VACRO In the Frame Women and Families- Working with the Missing Pieces Violet Lotter Women, Children, Family Services Manager Gen Anderson Women’s Support."— Presentation transcript:

1 VACRO In the Frame Women and Families- Working with the Missing Pieces Violet Lotter Women, Children, Family Services Manager Gen Anderson Women’s Support Services Coordinator Reintegration Puzzle August 2013

2 Established in 1872 as the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society, the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) is a non-denominational, community-based agency. First Victorian organisation to recognise and include offenders families as part of its primary mission VACRO works across the criminal justice system to create a safe and fair community, to respect and support individual and family dignity, and to make a positive contribution to reducing the harm done by crime. Justice Programs [Men & Women] Family Programs Research & Development 2012 VACRO launched their Children’s Foundation The VACRO Story

3 Our aim today….. To give you an overview of our work with families and children [hidden victims] and women in the criminal justice system and relate this to the VACRO research that influences our approach.

4 VACRO’s Family Services Supporting individuals and their families… at the time of arrest, through court, in the prison system and out in the community.

5 Research & Services First hand experience of the impact of incarceration on families and children Awareness of these needs has grown & led VACRO to  Initiate family focused research  Expand service provision to include information, support and counselling for these families and children

6 Research & Resources: Doing it Hard (2000) “Imprisonment has a profound effect on children and there is considerable consistency between the findings of the few studies which have examined these effects.”

7 Research & Resources: Children: Unintended Victims of Legal Process 2006 & 2007 This project tracked the needs of children with imprisoned parents from the stage of police contact to the point of prison release

8 Research & Resources: Court Based Family Support (2009)  An estimated 67,631 children aged years are associated with adult defendants processed in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.  An estimated 2,689 children aged 0-17 years are associated with adult defendants who received a sentence of imprisonment in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.  In 2012 VACRO commenced our Family Links Program in Geelong Magistrates Court

9 Research & Resources: Next Generation on the Outside (2011) Report looks at the ordinary functioning of the criminal justice system and the unintended adverse effects on families and children of offenders.

10 Each Step Equally Impacts Upon the Family Arrest Court Bail/Remand Prison Orders Community Parole Reintegration VACRO Women, Family and Children’s [WF&C] team offer services that provide information, support and counselling at each step:

11 Issues for Prisoner’s Families Issues are complex depending on relationship to prisoner, nature of crime, length of sentence Issues include:  Sadness and Grief  Shame, guilt and anger  Stigma  Social isolation, rejection  What, when and how to tell the children  Financial concerns, loss of income  Relief

12 Barriers to Accessing Supports Families are unlikely to come forward due to fears of being judged, and embarrassment of ‘needing help’…often for the first time. “I found it really hard to tell anyone; even my maternal child health worker and child care centre didn’t know my husband was incarcerated. I was so worried that they would judge me and my children. It would have made it easier if they understood what I was going through” (Partner) Children and young people can feel this even more acutely with the pressures of relating to peers and wanting to fit in.

13 What about the Children? Imprisonment has a profound effect on children The stress associated with social stigma and isolation Keeping secrets Uncertainty and disruption about the absence then reappearance of a parent Separation anxiety –Worry that they have been abandoned or will never see the parent again –Worry that the remaining parent will disappear Difficulties at school

14 What Do We Know About These Children? Approximately 5% of all Australian children and 20% of Indigenous Australian children have experienced parental incarceration. (Children, un-intended victims of legal process) Approximately 38,000 children have a parent in prison [Quilty 2005] “ Incarceration of a parent significantly increases the likelihood of future incarceration of a child” (FaCS 2003:5)

15 Grief – major impact Name the grief : loss of what was and what was expected to be Disenfranchised grief My daughter was in such as awful state, self-harming. She was struggling with the usual psychologist…but was so happy to get a worker who understood the system. Compound grief We realised that there were a lot of problems at school, he was really struggling and getting picked on a lot. I could see that he’s not just being a brat: there’s other issues involved. Complicated grief

16 So how does VACRO work with the forgotten /unintended victims?

17 Emotional Cycle for Women, Men, and Families in CJS Aboriginal Family Visits Program Video Visits Program Family Support Worker - Marngoneet Prison VACRO Information & Referral Worker SKY Counselling & Community Consultation Family Links Geelong Magistrates Court Family Information & Referral Worker Melbourne Assessment Prison Child Care & Transport Subsidies Program VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program Link Out Arrest Pre release Incarceration Sentencing Pre-trial Period Post release celebration Reality

18 Emotional Cycle for Women, Men, and Families in CJS Aboriginal Family Visits Program Video Visits Program Family Support Worker - Marngoneet Prison VACRO Information & Referral Worker SKY Counselling & Community Consultation Family Links Geelong Magistrates Court Family Information & Referral Worker Melbourne Assessment Prison Child Care & Transport Subsidies Program VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program Link Out Arrest Pre release Incarceration Sentencing Pre-trial Period Post release celebration Reality Family Information & Referral Worker Melbourne Assessment Prison Family Links Geelong Magistrates Court Aboriginal Family Visits Program Video Visits Program Family Support Worker: Marngoneet VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program Men’s Transitional Services Child Care & Transport Subsidies Program VACRO Information & Referral Worker SKY Counselling & Community Consultation

19 Support for Children (& their families) The SKY (Supporting Kids & Youth) Counsellor -Social work / family therapy -Lets the client define “family” (cultural awareness) -Throughput -Early intervention (from time of arrest, prioritising the younger children) -State-wide, outpost model. -Flexible number of sessions

20 SKY Counselling Child-centred family therapy Lets the client define “family” (cultural awareness) Early intervention (from time of arrest, prioritising the younger children)

21 Examples of SKY Clients Multiple traumas Partners, parents, siblings of adult offenders… fearful of the impact the situation may have on their children’s future Divided loyalties between carer and mum. Reforming relationships and rebuilding trust (post release)

22 Techniques & Therapeutic Frameworks Single session or Ongoing Family systems frameworks (structural, narrative, contextual) Grief & loss Trauma frameworks Creative arts Relaxation techniques Play

23 Examples of SKY Clients The Closet in my Head Client is 13 year old girl residing in foster care after both parents were incarcerated.

24 SKY Community Consultation Provides training sessions for community, schools. Knowledge of the adult criminal justice system Understanding the impact of the system on children and families Strategies Awareness of the resources available.

25 SKY Community Consultation

26 Community Consultation

27 Family-inclusive Practice VACRO Children’s Officer Develops & maintains VACRO’s Children’s Policies & Procedures Consultation for all teams, including our Men’s services Training for all staff on working from a Family Inclusive persepctive Victorian Charter of Human Rights & Responsibilities Act, 2006 Shared Clients within VACRO Inclusive working with external agencies ie Odyssey Mirror Families, DHS, schools

28 Why VACRO Works with Women Gender matters significantly in shaping patterns of offending as well as the criminal justice system’s response to criminal offending Gender is also important in examining the differential effects of current policies and practices. The need to take into account the reality of women’s lives, characteristics, responsibilities, and roles in crime.

29 What works for women from Women’s case Management Guide March 2010 A study of women after prison found that effective services were characterised by: A holistic approach Accessibility Non-judgemental Workers being reliable Having a sense of humour Believing the woman can change A focus on the woman’s strengths

30 VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program (VWMP) Eleven year history, currently funded until June Assists women to integrate into the community through the provision of support by voluntary female mentors from the community. The program supports women exiting the prison system AND those on community corrections orders.

31 Social Isolation

32 Mentoring and Social Capital Human capital Thinking style, motivation to change Social capital The web of social relations within which we all live- relationships with family, informal social networks, relationships established through work, etc. Human capital + Social capital = Desistance from crime

33 VWMP: Desistance model 1. Human Capital Spending time reflecting on imprisonment, future plans, goals Positive reinforcement of non-offending routines and thoughts Challenging anti-social thoughts & patterns Assistance with justice system eg. court support Ability to evaluate offending & prison Interest in non-offending lifestyle and commitment to putting routines and behaviours in place for support Improved self esteem and self-worth

34 VWMP: Desistance model 2. Social disadvantage Advocacy with Centrelink and other agencies Assistance with budgeting Link to training and employment opportunities Identification of housing crises & referral to housing services Stronger capacity to advocate with services Increased likelihood of issues being identified & addressed by services Increased resources to access employment/study

35 VWMP: Desistance model 3. Social Capital Egalitarian, trustworthy consistent, authentic friendship and support Encouraging links with resources such as family and services Assisting with links to work/study/volunteering Capacity for better relationships with support services, families and other networks Sense of support & connection, reduced isolation Increased opportunities for work/study/volunteering Sense of community ‘safety net’

36 Social Isolation The Volunteer Mentor and the participant spend time: -going for walks -shopping together to get used to large crowds -attending classes together to make new friends -helping develop goals This helps to break the cycle of isolation and increase the participant’s: self esteem & confidence... and leads to more productive participation in the community.

37 Eligibility- Who is VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program for? ‘…she gave me the confidence; she made me believe in me’ Participation is voluntary, not mandated. Women exiting prison (up to three months prior) or on community correctional orders. Mothers, daughters, sisters, neighbours, partners. “Low” to “moderate” risk of re-offending. Gender-specific (women only). Average age of current program participants is 39. Indigenous women, women from CALD backgrounds. Women with histories of mental health issues, homelessness, family violence, addiction. Women with physical and intellectual disabilities, women with acquired brain injuries.

38 Volunteer mentors Relationships with volunteers have a degree of legitimacy which is difficult to replicate in normal worker-client relationships. Training: Working with indigenous and CALD women Transitional issues for women Addictive behaviour Mental health Correctional context Children and families Boundaries

39 The mentoring relationship

40 Relationships – the key Woman Other Allied support services Community Corrections / Parole Referral Sources Mental Health Alcohol & Other Drug Services Housing

41 Vignettes......

42 Tara had heard the teachers at school whispering to each other about her mum. When Grandpa wasn’t looking, Tara read the newspaper and read in detail what Michelle had done. Tara didn’t want to tell anyone. VACRO supported: Tara Granparents Teachers Mum [mentor]

43 Transitional Resources

44 Research & Resources: The Transition Toolkit (2013) For families who are soon to be reunited with a family member being released from prison. Also for professional workers to provide relevant support and guidance for these families. Designed to help begin conversations – sometimes about matters that are hard to talk about – and help work toward solutions for every member of the family.

45 Research & Resources: Getting Started Transitional Resource for Prisoners A guide for people being released from prison. It is based on VACRO’s Getting Out book and covers the practical and social needs during transition from prison to the community 10x booklets & 5x Information Sheets

46 New Beginnings, Stronger Communities Research and resources Supporting Women, Families and Children Community Education Resilient Individuals and families Safer Communities

47

48 Violet Lotter Women’s, Children’s, Families Team Manager / Gen Anderson Women’s Support Services Coordinator /


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