Barnardos has published a report on two pilot community services working with children and families with a parent in prison. The services were based in Bristol and Devon between 2010 and 2011, and were known as ECHO (Empowering the Children of Offenders).
According to the report, the majority of services available for children and families of offenders are what they refer to as ‘point of contact’ services, which focus on the point of contact between the prisoner and the family, most notably prison visits. While point of contact services remain crucial for the welfare of the child, it said that they cannot engage with the whole child; in other words, they cannot address the ongoing distress or difficulties that the child faces upon return to their family, community or school. They further cannot engage with children who do not, or are not able to, visit their imprisoned parent.
The report outlines the impact of parental imprisonment on both the child’s internal and outside world, before examining the experiences of staff, families and children involved in the ECHO services from 2010-2011. Some of the main practice messages identified in the report are:
- A response that combines practical assistance with emotional and relationship support is highly valued.
- There is a need, wherever possible, for a prompt response to the family affected by imprisonment.
- Talking directly to children about imprisonment and its impact on their world is of crucial importance.
- It is also important to note that the impact of parental imprisonment may vary depending on the crime committed. Sexual or serious violent crimes may add layers of complexity to the work involved.
The full report can be found on the Barnardos website.