Our March blog is a guest post from Rebecca Mistry, family work co-ordinator with RAPt.RAPt logo

RAPt works in prisons and in the community with individuals affected by substance misuse and their significant concerned others who are also impacted. 
 
For many of our clients, the issue of children and young people is an emotive one. Many have lost contact with their families, and do not see their children regularly, if at all. For some clients the children will be in the care of grandparents or other family members, living with foster parents, or possibly adopted.

Clients often carry huge guilt in relation to their offending, substance misuse and the negative impact this has had on their own children. They struggle to know how to be a Mum or a Dad whilst in custody, and they feel extremely disempowered and at a loss in terms of how best to communicate with children, partners and other family members.

For some, their family of origin was immersed in crime and addiction, and so they feel ill equipped to act as a role model for their own children, and sometimes for their grandchildren, nephews or nieces.

Our Family Ties programme, is a series of 8 workshops that focus on helping clients to consider the effect of their dependency on others. It looks at strengthening communication, managing conflict, maintaining and rebuilding family ties and opening up a discussion on the impact of addiction on both the family and wider community.

The workshops are delivered in a group format and use a range of exercises, including open discussion and role play. We use a number of short films to enhance the learning experience. Most recently we came across the The Children’s Society “Ask About Me” DVD and have been using this to promote discussion specifically in our Prison, Addiction and the Impact on Families workshop.

Ask About Me highlights the huge impact parental drug and alcohol misuse can have on children and young people.  The DVD which contains eight short films focus on children’s experiences, emotions and needs, from the child’s perspective.

The film is highly emotive and something that touches me deeply each time I watch it. When I first saw it, in the company of my family worker team, I asked them if they felt it might be too painful for our clients to watch. I was concerned that it would raise many difficult feelings that we might not be able to help clients process or contain in the prison environment.   Feelings of guilt and shame and sadness, but also for many, revisiting their own difficult childhoods, where crime and addiction also played a significant role.

We all agreed that the content was upsetting, but felt that these are voices that need to be heard, and we have started using it with our groups. Although it has been challenging for many, it has been hugely beneficial in allowing for discussion, reflection and above all highlighting the voice of children and young people which so often forgotten or unheard.

QUOTES ABOUT FAMILY TIES

“I think that this course has definitely strengthened my relationship with my partner and child, by showing me the different ways that I can give them support and encouragement from here”

“I learned a lot personally, especially from the feedback we got from each other in the class, and also sharing each other’s personal experience about parenting.”

“I have put lots into practice from this course already, like asking my son what his day was like from the moment he got up to the time he went to bed, how he was feeling, knowing that I am in prison, writing letters to him and keeping in better contact.”

“These workshops have really benefitted me because it helped me understand the stress and pressure that prison life and using puts on partners, children, parents and siblings.”

For more information visit www.rapt.org.uk

Rebecca Mistry, Family Work Coordinator, RAPt, rebeccca.mistry@rapt.org.uk

 

Read our previous blogs:

Our February 2017 blog is a guest post from Josh, the child of an alcoholic and author of awareness-raising blog COAisathing. Here he shares his experiences, his thoughts and his hopes.

Our January 2017 blog looks ahead to opportunities for awareness and action in 2017.

All 2016 blogs

All 2015 blogs

December 2014 blog