Children of prisoners - maintaining family ties
SCIE Guide 22
By Sara Lewis, Salina Bates and Joseph Murray
Published April 2008
About this guide
This report brings together resources and research about maintaining family ties for children of prisoners. It provides a review of literature from the past fifteen years as well as examples of practice from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland of what works to support children and their families.The findings highlight the negative impact parental imprisonment can have on children. This area of work cuts across a number of sectors and requires a multi-disciplinary readership and response if outcomes for this group of children are to be improved.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is aimed at anyone who works with families of prisoners either directly or indirectly. This includes staff working in:
- children’s trusts and teams
- the voluntary sector
- the independent sector
- schools and educational staff
- youth offending teams
- Sure Start children’s centres
- health visitors
- prison and probation staff
- anyone else who might have a role to play in helping children maintain family ties, such as foster carers.
The guide also discusses the development of service delivery, and so will interest:
- inspectors for the children’s services (Ofsted)
- childcare coordinators and quality assurance managers
- members of local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs)
- HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
For some children it will not be appropriate or welcome to pursue contact with an imprisoned family member. This guide seeks to provide information and resources for professionals working with children who do want to maintain contact or where it is considered to be in the best interests of the child. In every situation, the safety and well-being of the child is paramount.
How will the guide benefit your practice?
The guide will benefit your practice by:
- highlighting the legislative and policy background
- providing a review of the knowledge base on supporting children of prisoners
- raising awareness of the potential impact on a child with a parent in prison
- offering practical examples of where agencies have successfully supported children and their families
- supplying links and contacts to useful resources and organisations.
This report also provides the evidence base for the development of a set of training tools that will shortly become available. The e-learning materials will test your knowledge of facts and figures in relation to children of prisoners, take you through the pathway from arrest to release, and provide ideas and models for developing your practice. They also bring together all the available resources in one easy-to-use online filing cabinet. The materials will be useful for a variety of practitioners working in the social, education and criminal justice sectors.
What this guide does not cover
Due to the ethical restraints on involving children in focus groups, children of prisoners were not asked for their views. However, studies and organisations that have worked with and addressed the views of prisoners’ children have been researched.
In this report we do not look at the effect of sibling imprisonment. The research reviewed is restricted to effects linked to parents or carers in prison. This is an area for further research.
While it is acknowledged that there are several programmes under the Safer Communities Initiative, this initiative tends to focus upon the offender rather than the family, and so it is not within the remit of this project.