Constructive connections: building resilience of families affected by the criminal justice system
Having a parent incarcerated is a recognised adverse childhood experience, with widespread, severe impacts. The study was designed with two stages: eliciting the experiences of children and young people through face-to-face interviews (supplemented with interviews with the remaining parent and involved professionals) and a consultation event with families; followed by two stakeholder events targeted at practitioners and senior managers to facilitate co-production of proposed solutions.
Experiencing a parent’s (1) arrest and charging, (2) sentencing & serving a custodial sentence, (3) serving a community order & (4) completion of sentence were addressed with children and young people from 8 to 24 years of age. There were 14 cases from 10 families, each relating to high-level offences (including life sentences). Reticence was common among most service providers to identify families which might be approached to participate.
Schools were both a place of stress and threat, and an opportunity for “one good adult” to exert a lasting positive impact. The families distrusted statutory services, but valued Third Sector support. They wanted funding for peer-support groups. The young people demanded humanisation of their experience from arrest to years after the parent’s release. They felt victimised by authorities and the community, leading to disrupted lives and the loss of their childhood. They demanded child-friendly prison visiting, and meaningful activity with the parent.
“The human rights of all children affected by parental imprisonment need to be at the heart of the change that needs to happen. This research helps give Scotland the tools to effect that change.”Children and Young People Commissioner Scotland
Juliet Harris, Director of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) emphasised the importance of this evidence in preserving children’s human rights.
Funder: NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde £114,850
Team: Prof Tony Long, Dr Kelly Lockwood, with University of Huddersfield and Families Outside