CYP Now Awards finalist Anna is the Spurgeons Family Services Practitioner at HMP Ford, an open prison in West Sussex. She gives us an insight into her work.
“Every day is different, really! My office is down one end of a wing and I’ve made it cosy and homely, a sanctuary where the men can think about themselves as dads rather than prisoners. They drop in for a chat and advice, such as how to write a letter home or chat with their children on the phone – often they just aren’t sure what to say and I can guide them.
“With the men focused on getting work outside, they couldn’t regularly attend a formal course. Instead, we have a Family Club which they come to as and when they’re around. They’ve been making family tree pictures, writing the names of their family on little hearts which they stick to a wooden tree.
I encourage their creativity. One dad glued straggly green fabric under the tree because his children live in a high rise flat and they’ve never had a garden. Another dad put two of the hearts on the ground to represent two of his children that had died.
“One prisoner can’t see his children, but makes things for his daughters’ birthdays every year.
“He told me, ‘Even if I don’t get to give them the gifts until they’re 30, I want them to know that I loved them all the time.’
“While they’re making things, we chat about family issues and how to handle them. The men often struggle to relate to their families on home visits – often their partners have become more independent and their children have grown up. The risk is, once they go home for good, those relationships fall apart, so talking is good.
“You see the men – even the tough, dangerous criminals – in a different light when they’re carefully sticking little gems on gifts to send home. Those gifts mean so much to their families too. It helps to restart that connection. Yesterday, a prisoner’s mum rang me – she was so moved by the gift her son had made and sent her that she was in tears. There’s seldom time and opportunity for the men to communicate their deepest emotions on visits but the crafts can do it for them.
“I love my work. I always try to find the good in prison dads because we can pass that back to their children and partners and help keep the family bonds strong.’’
About Spurgeons Prison-based Family Support Services:
Spurgeons delivers family support services in 12 prisons across England. These services provide family support services for prisoners and their families and friends who visit them, with a particular focus on children and strengthening family relationships. We appreciate how important prison visits are for everyone involved. Our aim is to make them less daunting so that the time spent together helps families to re-connect in a positive way. We are always here to offer practical and emotional support.
To learn more about our work in prisons, click here.