Supporting incarcerated mothers in Ireland with their familial relationships; a case for the revival of the social work role
All families need both formal and informal supports throughout their life course. Parents relationships with their children need to be promoted, supported and maintained. For parents living with their children and acting as their primary carer this role, although fulfilling, is filled with challenges. At particular points in time and for a variety of reasons parents need to be supported in carrying out this role, striving towards healthy family functioning. For parents where there are additional stressors associated with their relationship with their children. The impact of this can be significant and far reaching for all involved. Incarcerated mothers and their children face particular difficulties in maintaining their relationships and for mothers to ‘perform’ a mothering role. Throughout the stages of childhood, family breakdown and separation from their mother is a traumatic experience for children. This paper considers the current provision within the Irish Prison System for supporting incarcerated mothers in their efforts to maintain relationships with their children and wider family members and highlights the deficits within this. This paper argues the case for reviving the role of supportive social work practitioners to work alongside incarcerated mothers in an effort to retain and realise their parental rights and duties and to maintain relationships with their children.
Supporting children and families of prisoners in the North East: A case study of how the voluntary sector and research has driven the agenda
This is a reflective piece that explores how work to support children and families of prisoners in the North East of England developed from very limited provision 10 years ago to what is now a substantial and multifaceted programme. The success of the work has been driven by the voluntary sector, with one key agency in particular taking a lead, supported by research that has provided the evidence base to identify intervention points and to demonstrate effectiveness and impact. We see that the persistence and commitment of a key voluntary sector agency working in partnership with a research organisation, backed up by strategy and a supportive prison environment, has created strong children and families provision in the North East.
This article focusses on the issues that arise when grandmothers are put in the position of caring for their grandchildren while their parents are in prison. It will present the lived experience of three grandmothers who are in this position and 16 imprisoned mothers, whose mothers were caring for their children, who participated in two focus groups at two different female prisons. It is now well established that parental imprisonment generally has a negative impact upon children. Children with imprisoned mothers often face the most disruption to their lives. Many children with mothers in prison are cared for by their grandparents, with grandmothers generally doing the majority of the care. Pressures faced by grandparent carers of children with incarcerated parents occur as a result of stigma, loss, isolation, poor health and a lack of practical, emotional and financial support. If grandparents were not willing to provide this care, many more children with parents in prison would face being placed in foster care, or in children’s homes. The complexities encountered by both grandparents and imprisoned mothers as a result of the changes in roles that arise from these circumstances will be explored.
A substantial body of research now exists indicating that parental imprisonment can produce multiple negative effects on dependent children. While the criminal justice system can respond to this post-imprisonment through positive interventions, an important question arises as to whether courts should take into account the impact of imprisonment on the children of offenders at the point of sentencing. The recognition of children’s rights in many jurisdictions has prompted courts to develop approaches that take account of these important third party considerations. This article will explore how the courts of South Africa and England and Wales have made space for the rights of children of offenders within the sentencing process and consider whether Ireland might adopt such an approach. Central to this process is how relevant information regarding dependent children can best be presented to the sentencing court. The article will therefore examine the potential introduction of child impact statements into the Irish sentencing process, and the extent to which probation officers are suited to adapting their current pre-sanction report role to include child impact information.
Breaking down barriers: Understanding the experience of British Pakistani families affected by imprisonment
This paper explores the experiences and support needs of British Pakistani families of prisoners through in-depth interviews with six family members of different prisoners: four males and two females, ranging between 18 and 40 years. Key findings are that British Pakistani family members of prisoners experienced the Criminal Justice System as culturally inappropriate and insensitive, raising questions of direct, indirect and institutional racism. Furthermore, family members were more likely to access support if criminal justice and support services staff were drawn from the wider British Pakistani community, but felt hindered from doing so if those staff were thought to have personal relationships to the families’ own local communities.