I would like to thank everyone for making this journey such a valuable one. I have loved every minute of my placement and feel so blessed to have met such passionate and caring individuals who collectively demonstrate what compassionate, unconditional, unbiased, unjudgmental support should be. I have gained so much experience and a wealth of knowledge that I know will be invaluable in my future practice, I look forward to continuing as a volunteer. Thank you so much for giving me this amazing opportunity.
Before starting my remote placement, I feared the virtual world of online intervention might be a barrier to successful and valuable work. I worried I would not integrate with the rest of the team and considered I might feel like an outsider. This was not the case after inductions and introductions in my first week I very quickly adapted to this new way of working, as the uncertainties of a virtual workplace became a positive and empowering communication tool.
I thought I knew a fair bit about potential impacts of children impacted by parental imprisonment, I was wrong, with every person I met or family I spoke with, I felt absolutely honoured as they openly shared lived experiences with me. Each case unique and complex, each gave me further insight to situations I had never previously considered. Regardless of circumstances what struck me the most was the agencies desire to keep children at the centre of the conversation at all times, having a relationship with the parent on the inside is not criteria for support.
As the placement continued, I realised meeting online was not for everyone, however for those families who embraced a digital platform I witnessed real benefit and felt this method of communication was not a secondary after thought as charities adapted during COVID-19 lockdowns, but a vital support for a population of families who felt marginalised and hidden, some even feeling unworthy of support, recognising the stigma and societal prejudices towards them.
I was very fortunate to facilitate several group sessions, I was such a bag of nerves even intimidated by the idea of sharing a zoom room with people I had never met in person. Through theory and guidance from colleagues I was able to plan sessions and engage parents/carers in several topics, each providing a diverse insight into their relationship with prison services. Children’s groups were always fun and engaging, and every single session highlighted that despite the trauma’s experienced each of them were unique, individual, caring, empathetic, nurturing and worthy of unconditional support and I was blessed to be part of their journey and they certainly enriched mine.
One to one session’s allowed me to build a relationship away from the groups, giving children a safe space to explore thoughts, feelings, fears and wishes. Children were able to express themselves in a way they might never be able to do with others close to them, through fear of upsetting the parent/Carer on the outside, or in case they were judged or even bullied by their peers. The isolation felt by families impacted by parental imprisonment can affect every relationship, the decision to share with others weighs heavy and so often they decide to keep this part of their life secret.
I feel privileged to have met workers and volunteers who are clearly passionate about advocating for this hidden population, as they campaign tirelessly to ensure voices are heard and awareness is raised, while providing tailored support to mitigate the impacts of parental imprisonment.