Kate* was really struggling, “I haven’t seen my children in 5 months. My sister doesn’t have a car and is unable to bring them in to visit me. I miss them so much”. I acknowledged how hard that must be and informed her Prison Network is able to assist with transport with children to see their mothers in prison. “Really? Are you sure? Oh yes please! You would do that for me? Really?” I offered to talk with her sister and arrange the logistics that week.
The next day I connected with the children’s Aunty Kelly* to arrange for the children to visit their mum the following weekend. Kelly and I ended up talking for some time. Kelly had been going through some challenges, and just needed someone to talk to.
Kelly also needed to understand the logistics and protocols involved in the kids visit to the prison. She was a bit nervous about what the experience was going to be like for the kids. I was able to advise on what they could bring along, the clothes they could wear and how much money they would need to purchase food during the visit. I talked her through the process of going through security and what items needed to be left at home. I also explained that we run the Fun With Mum program during the ‘children only’ visit time on Sunday. Kelly put me on speaker so I could let the kids know about the Fun With Mum program too. I told them about the soccer balls, hula hoops, bubbles, paint, craft activities and numerous board games waiting for them. They were getting excited about the visit and what activity they planned on doing with their Mum. I also told them about the van I would pick them up in. They were able to choose the seats they wanted to sit in. By the end of the conversation Kelly was comfortable about sending the children for the visit and the children were counting down the days till they got to see their mum.
The day of the visit, we picked the children up from their home, checked that they had the right clothes on, money for food and water for the car ride. After a quick debate on music selection, we were off. In the 45 minutes that it took to get to the prison we had played eye-spy, sang songs, discussed favourite foods, pets and tried to figure out why the clouds were chasing us.
As we walked from the DPFC car park to the front gate, I could see that the kids were excited but also apprehensive. After going through security, telling jokes and laughing on our way to the visitors centre the youngest child suddenly broke away from us and ran towards the glass door. She could see her Mum waiting on the other side. Tears in her eyes, a smile on her face and arms outstretched. The other two children quickly followed and before too long they were all in a tearful embrace.
The visit lasted four hours.
Two of the children slept the whole way home. But the eldest sat gazing out the window for most of the trip. Holding onto the bracelet her and her Mum had just made together.
By Sarah Charles (Support Worker)
*Names have been changed. Featured image is of a model.