Children Heard and Seen

Heard & Seen: Young People’s Voices 1: Millie’s Story

Below is the 1st in a new series of blogs created by young people with a parent in prison. By sharing these hidden voices, we aim to eradicate the stigma around parental imprisonment, and demonstrate the importance of identifying and supporting children with a parent in prison.

I was only 14 when my dad went away. It’s like you’re grieving someone that’s still alive.

When he first got arrested, we didn’t really have any support. I wasn’t getting support from school, and I was getting excluded quite a lot. I was hurting and school wasn’t understanding why I was hurting. Not a lot of staff members knew. Then it came out in the newspapers and then people at school started talking about my dad. Everyone was talking about it. People would say stuff to me all the time like ‘your dad’s just a drug dealer’ and ‘your dad’s this.’

It makes someone feel horrible you know, like it made me feel horrible about myself. People were judging me all the time.

I know a lot of kids at school with parents in prison. My mum has recommended Children Heard and Seen (CHAS) to the school, but they just push it to one side.

I feel like the school doesn’t know how to approach these situations. I was in school when my dad was in court and going through all that. It was hard and I really wanted to talk to him at the time. I would just get sent home because the school just thought I was misbehaving on purpose, but it was just my way of showing my hurt.

I’d find it quite embarrassing to talk to people at school – students and teachers – about my problems, because I felt they’d look down their nose at me and my family.

I didn’t feel comfortable with telling some of my friends. A few of them knew, but not all of them. They tend to judge, and I felt like I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about it because they’d make fun of me and stuff.

I just feel like it’s not spoken about enough, it just gets pushed to the side. It’s not talked about enough how a parent going to prison makes the children feel.

I met my CHAS support worker Rachel for the first time and got sent a workbook. Rachel was really nice and proper comforted me a lot. She’d ring me once a week and used to come all the way from Liverpool to come see me. We’d meet up at Starbucks near mine and talk about how I was feeling and stuff that week.

She also got in contact with school a lot to make sure they were aware of where my dad was. I’ve still got the workbook under my wardrobe and now I look back on it, I can’t believe I’ve gone from that to this.

I feel like the support has saved me. I was in such a horrible place, and it helped me realise I could talk about my feelings and everything without being judged. Some days I would think to myself ‘am I going to make it through until the end of the day?’ But Rachel would always be there for me. As soon as I messaged her, she’d always reply.

She taught me a lot of coping strategies. Sadness can turn to anger really fast, it can go from 0 to 100 in no time. She taught me how to cope with my anger. At the end of my sessions, I’ve come out with a lot of skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life. She always said to me ‘you shouldn’t listen to what other people say’. ‘As long as it matters to you, it doesn’t matter to anyone else.’ She taught me that it’s ok to speak up.

It was only my mum, my sister and Rachel I could talk to about it without feeling embarrassed. It just helped me so much because I felt comforted by how I was being spoken to – like it wasn’t an embarrassing conversation to have with Rachel.

I don’t really get upset about it anymore. It is an upsetting thing, but it’s gone to the back of my mind now. It was always at the front of my mind a few years ago. I didn’t get told what my dad was in prison for at first. My mum and dad kept it from me because they thought I’d hate my dad for it. They didn’t tell me at first and that upset me more, as I didn’t know. It could have been for literally anything – and I didn’t know.

I watched my dad get arrested, and my house has been raided a few times now. It’s sad to watch him go away and not say bye. He’s never said bye when he goes. It’s so unfair that people have to go through that and are not able to talk about it.

I just want to give something back to Children Heard and Seen because they helped me through one of the hardest times in my life. There definitely should be something like this for other children up and down the country, who are going through something similar. It should be like this for everyone.

It’s just a shame that the word isn’t properly out there. I don’t even know where I would be now if I didn’t have the support I had with Rachel and Children Heard and Seen.

It’s quite a nasty feeling knowing that right now there are other children with a parent in prison out there that think they’re alone, and have no one to talk to like I did. I hope that one day workshops are set up in schools for teachers and pupils to be aware, and they understand how hard it is to deal with having a parent in prison all on your own.

If I could say one thing to other young people going through what I went through, it would be: It’s okay not to be okay. There will always be a point where you’ll feel embarrassed, but that’s ok. You’ll look back and see how much has changed and how far you’ve come. It’s a really nice feeling seeing how far you’ve come.

Looking ahead, I want to go into law and become a barrister. I want to make better decisions than my dad did when he was younger.