Earlier this week, the BBC released an article on their ‘newsbeat’ page (news aimed at young adults) in which they had spoken to Toni. Toni was 11 when her mum was sent to prison, she also had 2 sisters. The 23 year old sister had just had a baby, and had to then take care of Toni and her 9 year old sister.
As adults, we feel great sympathy for children going through the trauma of a parent being taken away from the home, however, can we really empathise?
We have all been children at some point, obviously, but unless we went through that specific trauma at that specific age, I think it’s really difficult to be able to fully understand.
In the article it explains how Toni felt she couldn’t be upset, as her little sister copied her, and she didn’t want her feeling sad. She then reflects on this stating “I don’t think I properly processed my emotions at the time”, which is almost certainly the case, and quite damaging.
There are several charities which have the sole aim to assist families at times like this, with trained professionals who can give useful advice to those who need it. I will pop some details at the bottom of this post.
However, currently schools are not informed when a parent goes to prison. Just making this small step a major priority can make a huge difference to the child involved.
I spoke to Sara over Facebook, and Sara took matters into her own hands…
I took the decision to inform my daughters Head Teacher that I was expecting to be handed a custodial sentence. I needed to ensure that she would receive any extra support necessary. Her Head Teacher was wonderful, she visited me in prison, and bought me some of her school work to look through, it meant so much to me.
My daughter is now doing a uniformed public services course and wants to work with offenders/ex offenders in some capacity. I am very lucky that I have a very good support network around me, but I know others aren’t so fortunate.
The current situation
At this point in time there are around 300,000 children in the UK who have a parent with a conviction. Schools and authorities are not informed, unless a child has to be taken into care.
There needs to be some sort of database for these children and families, as they may need more help when it comes to housing, finances and mental health. The issue arises when it comes down to who has the responsibility of identifying and reporting the child. Does it lay with the Police? The Crown Prosecution Service? The courts? Either way, something needs to be put into place, as it’s the children who are suffering.
For support or advice on this subject please contact:
PACT – Prisonadvice.org.uk – Freephone 0808 808 2003
The Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) are there to support prisoners and their families and to reduce harm to children during this difficult process.
They have a great website, which is very easy to use, and a very high success rate when it comes to assisting prisoners and their relationships.
Spurgeons – spurgeons.org
Spurgeons aim to improve the lives of children who have a parent in prison. They offer services throughout the UK, and run support programmes to help children and young adults to cope.
Their website itself holds a lot of useful information, so it is definitely worth checking out.
National information centre on children of offenders (NICCO) is a website which gives you the opportunity to see what assistance and support in available in a specific prison, or a specific community.
There is also some amazing resources on the website which includes worksheets and reading material for children, young people, parents, teachers, and caregivers.