Children on the Edge: children affected by maternal imprisonment
This work has been funded by Commonweal Housing. In 2014 Women’s Breakout partnered with Anawim Women’s Centre to host the Re-Unite network and identify the on-going challenges for women and their children when separation has occurred as a result of maternal imprisonment. The Re-Unite network members provided valuable contributions to our understanding of the woman’s perspective, but we also wanted to highlight the social injustice that occurs for children when their mother is imprisoned. This report is part of our collaborative effort, and while the study is small in scale, it illustrates the need to take full account of the impact of maternal imprisonment on children.
Key Points from consultation with children and young people
1. Feelings and concerns when mum went to prison
The disruption was particularly pronounced for the youngest, child B., who at the age of 2 moved to live with his Nan, whom he didn’t really know. ‘First I was a little a bit shy and then when I met her I got a bit happier and then I liked staying there.’
Young person A. was close to her Nan and often spent time at her Nan’s home. She thought she was only going to be spending a few days with Nan, ‘yeah I was meant to be for a couple of nights, that’s when my Nan said I would be staying for a while’. Her Nan initially kept her mother’s imprisonment a secret and said she had gone on holiday, but she had to eventually tell A that her mum was in prison, as her case had attracted media attention. A. stated that when she found out her Mum had gone to prison ‘I was a bit scared and a bit upset at the time, cos I didn’t really know what to do or what to say to my Nan or anything.’ I was a bit scared and a bit shocked as well. When asked what she was scared of she said ‘I don’t know really. Cos everything really.’
Young person C. had experienced many moves in carers and homes prior to his mum’s imprisonment. When he was placed in a foster home he recalled ‘Everything was getting mixed up staying at my aunties, staying everywhere. Loads of moving around, it was really nice settling.’ He stated that he was only 6/7 years old when his mum initially went to prison. When asked how he felt, he explained he was worried what people would think ‘people knowing what I was worried about.’ He could not remember how he found out about his mothers prison sentence and crime ‘I did not know why she had gone in. I can’t remember what people told me.’
3. Stigma about having a mum in prison
Young person A. stated that the only people she told about her mum being in prison was her best friend and her year 3 teacher. She trusted her best friend to keep it a secret which she did.
For C., whilst his best friend’s mother was a great source of emotional and practical support, he felt that he didn’t want to share some things with his best friend. ‘He knew what was going on, but not as much as his mum. I didn’t really want to share that much with him in case, cos it might make him not like me. He wouldn’t understand it. I felt like keep it as friends and when he gets older he will come out with more understanding. We were only 10 or 13 we’re just playing computer games.’
The report can be viewed by clicking on the title above.