Guest Blog – Children Heard and Seen

Thank you to Children Head and Seen for joining us and sharing this blog. Children Heard and Seen are a charity based in Oxford who support children affected by parental imprisonment. They are a vital charity that offers much needed help, activities and community to families who are often ignored and forgotten. Please take a read and find out more about their work, impact and the experiences of the children. Children Heard and Seen work across MK so do reach out to find out more.

A bit about our ‘WHY’…

Estimates suggest 312,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment in the UK. There is no government funded support for these children and no mechanism to identify them. Children are separated from their parent, often in traumatic circumstances, and left to cope with no professional support. Older children are often left to care for younger children, unidentified and alone.

“Before accessing the support from Children Heard and Seen our family wasn’t supported by anything or anyone”

“I was really shocked. I thought before court or after court I’d get a phone call from someone. I don’t know. Maybe someone from social services, not to judge or interfere with our family life, but to be there to offer support. I was really shocked because there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. You’re just left to deal with it.”

Activities that Children Heard and Seen have run throughout the summer (2021)

Children impacted by parental imprisonment struggle with their emotions. Often this presents as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bullying or difficulty at school. Parental imprisonment also puts children at a high risk of offending themselves; 65% of boys with a parent in prison go on to offend. 

“It was just horrendous really. It’s that sense of isolation and loneliness. Just isolated, alone and scared”

Children with a parent in prison also have to deal with stigma and shame. Many tell no-one outside their family, some have to face recriminations after their parent’s crime is published in the media and others have to uproot themselves completely; moving across the country and changing their names. 

“Other kids would come up to him on the street and say ‘where’s your Dad?’ or ‘your Dad’s in prison, isn’t he?’ and I could just see the tears come straight up in his eyes.”

“The comments were hard to read, hundreds upon hundreds of comments on social media were rolling in, “scum!” “dumb bimbo!” “I hope they both overdose” plus many racist comments. I then looked at the article on the internet with the photo of our son attached.”

A bit about us…

Children Heard and Seen offer 1:1 trained practitioner support for children, support groups for parents and children, creative and academic initiatives to support well-being, development and to raise children’s aspirations. Based in Oxfordshire, we are the only registered charity providing this support – offering face to face sessions in Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and virtual support across the country. 

Our support helps families come to terms with the impact of imprisonment, provides practical support, such as how to tell children where their parent has gone and why, mentoring and supports children through the emotional turmoil of a sudden and often lengthy parental absence, laden with shame and stigma. Our groups allow children to meet others in a similar situation, which reduces their isolation and allows them to talk about their feelings and the impact of parental imprisonment in a non-judgemental environment. The groups also give parents and carers the opportunity to meet others a to receive peer support from other parents who understand the issues they are facing.

“I can see the changes in the kids already. I think they have gotten a lot with socialising with other people.. I’m pretty sure it would have helped me personally as well; I know other parents have partners in prison and (it would have helped to know) how they deal with stuff like that.”

“After CHAS (Children Heard and Seen) Charlie* has done a full turnabout, he’s sweet and kind and lovely again. I think the mentor scheme really did support Charlie, he had built a solid relationship with Antonio. He has been brilliant for Charlie. We are so grateful for everything they have done for us.” *not child’s real name 

“As soon as I spoke to you guys you were hands on straight away and helped us. I thank you for all the hard work you all have done and continue to do.”

Workbook used with children

Contact us…

If you are a family or work with a family impacted by parental imprisonment we can offer 1:1 support for children, peer groups, practical support for parents and the opportunity of mentorship. To self-refer email info@childrenheardandseen.co.uk or message us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also call us on 07557 339258

If you are interested in volunteering, as a mentor or otherwise, please email volunteers@childrenheardandseen.co.uk

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Image caption: Sensory Advice Resource Centre logo

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