Children on the Edge: Children affected by maternal imprisonment

Our recent report ‘Children on the Edge: Children affected by maternal imprisonment‘ makes eleven recommendations that identify areas of development needed in the impact that maternal imprisonment has on children. We will be including a few of these in this and future ebulletins.

5. Children/young people need to be supported and encouraged to maintain contact with their mother where this is in the child’s best interest. This should take place within the first week of imprisonment where possible.

For the initial prison visit the child/young person should have information about the prison and their mothers’ ccommodation, which is appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development. Where possible this should include a tour and/or photographs of the prison. Prison staff or NGO staff could offer information and emotional support to children and families visiting the prison and allay any anxieties they may have.

Prison security search procedures should be more child-friendly to reduce the stress they cause children visiting their parents; and prison visits should be family friendly and in child centred environments with age appropriate toys and space to play with parents. This will promote longer and meaningful contact between parent and child to build up the child’s resilience.

Increase in special family visits should be permitted in all prisons which positively encourage and promote the child and parent relationship. These visits should not be linked to prison incentive or earned privileges schemes, but exist as a right of the child and helping the child cope with the situation. There should be flexibility in the visiting hours for children and families particularly for those travelling long distances.

Other ways to maintain contact should be encouraged and facilitated such as telephone calls, audio or video recordings of a book by their parent to allow the child to hear their parents tell them a story or increases use of Skype.

When there is no one to accompany the child on a prison visit there should be a trained volunteer who could transport and accompany the child to the prison setting. The volunteer could provide support for the child and the imprisoned parent to foster emotional communication and enhance the parent child interaction.

Recommendation 5: Where it is in a child’s best interest there should be a range of support to promote the child’s contact with the imprisoned parent, including more child friendly visiting arrangements and spaces in prisons.

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