The Problem: Children of prisoners are innocent victims of a crime they did not commit. Around 312,000 children in the UK have a parent in prison and about 3,000 children in Merseyside are affected. Children of prisoners are hidden victims who may suffer with:
Do you know a child with a parent in prison? We can help.
- Extreme separation anxiety
- Unwanted media attention
- Anxiety and worry
- Challenges at school
- Economic hardship
- Poor mental health
Peer Group Support
Peer group support sessions are extremely therapeutic for young people with a parent in prison. Our groups are suitable for children and young people
5 – 18 years.
In the groups, children are invited to share their worries, hopes and feelings in a safe, non-judgmental environment. We respect, however, that some children will prefer not to share and simply to listen.
Although we provide the space to discuss difficult topics, there is also an emphasis on everyone having fun. We use games, art, and trips out to enable expression, relaxation and escapism.
Read here about our Christmas support group at Build-A-Bear.
Read here about our Chemistry for All group.
Some children may feel nervous about attending a group or simply feel it’s not for them. If your child would like some 1:1 support we may be able to help.
In these sessions, children and young people are given a safe space to discuss any worries or wishes regarding, but not restricted to, the imprisonment of their parent(s).
These sessions may include age appropriate empowerment and resilience activities, art, games, and letter writing/card making. Some children like to use these sessions to write to their imprisoned parent and if so, we can post the letter to the prison on the families’ behalf. (Safeguarding checks and permission from the family will always be sought first).
NB: There may be a waiting list for these sessions, depending on staff availability.
Working with Families
Do children need to know that their parent is in prison to access the support? Yes, children need to know this before attending groups or 1:1s. There is a lot of research that tells us that children cope better with the truth and talking about the issues reduces the pressure on them to keep secrets.
However, at The My Time Project, we fully respect that parents/carers are experts on their own children and it is therefore their decision about what they want to tell them. We accept that telling a child that their parent is in prison is not easy and we offer pressure-free advice to parents/carers when they are deliberating about what to say. Taking the time to talk things through with parents/carers allows us to understand their needs and then work with them collaboratively to discover the best solutions together. Parents and carers can still access our support even if they do not want the child to know where their imprisoned parent is.
In accordance with our values and approach to supporting children and families affected by parental imprisonment we follow a code of conduct which you can access and read here.
Tips for Professionals
If you are supporting a child with a parent in prison:
- Reassure the child and praise them for having the courage to speak to you
- Take their worries seriously
- Do not ask the child about their parent’s crime
- Do not share the child’s story, even within your own work-place, unless you have a valid safeguarding concern
Our Advisory Board
We are so lucky to have the following incredibly passionate people on our advisory board:
Ben (Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield) has been researching the impact of imprisonment on families for 10 years and is the co-founder of the International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP). You can read one of Ben’s publications about the role of schools in assisting children of prisoners here. Ben also loves cats and exploring rivers and canals in his small boat.
Sarah is an independent consultant currently working with the Prison Reform Trust. Her current research passion is about helping families where a mother is in prison, and she is pushing for more support for women in the community. Sarah is also an active volunteer for The My Time Project, is an incredible cook and loves the band The Beautiful South. You can read Sarah’s latest article ‘What about me? Listening to the stories of children with a mother in prison’ here.
Liv has been attending support groups since the age of 9. She has spoken out on numerous occasions on TV, Radio and in conferences about the challenges she has faced and the things that have helped her through. Liv is currently studying music at university; she is a talented singer, writer and artist and is often seen at local gigs. Liv is determined to use her artist talents to enable young people to be able to express themselves and find comfort in difficult times.
Emily is a child protection social worker in one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK. Her research focus throughout her Masters was concerned with how prison release affects families. Emily is an advocate for vulnerable communities, social justice and community action. She has worked with families affected by parental imprisonment for several years and is also a passionate volunteer for The MyTime Project. When Emily is not working she loves to travel and go scuba diving whenever she can.