VACRO
In the Frame
Women and Families- Working
with the Missing Pieces
Violet Lotter
Women, Children, Family Services Manager
Gen Anderson
Women’s Support Services Coordinator
Reintegration Puzzle
August 2013
The VACRO Story
• Established in 1872 as the Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Society, the
Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders
(VACRO) is a non-denominational, community-based agency.
• First Victorian organisation to recognise and include offenders families
as part of its primary mission
• VACRO works across the criminal justice system to create a safe and
fair community, to respect and support individual and family dignity,
and to make a positive contribution to reducing the harm done by crime.
Justice Programs [Men & Women]
Family Programs
Research & Development
• 2012 VACRO launched their Children’s Foundation
Our aim today…..
To give you an overview of our
work with families and children
[hidden victims] and women in the
criminal justice system and relate
this to the VACRO research that
influences our approach.
VACRO’s Family Services
Supporting individuals and
their families…
at the time of arrest,
through court, in the prison
system and out in the
community.
Research & Services
• First hand experience of the impact of incarceration on
families and children
• Awareness of these needs has grown & led VACRO to
Initiate family focused research
Expand service provision to include information,
support and counselling for these families and
children
Research & Resources:
Doing it Hard (2000)
“Imprisonment has a profound
effect on children and there is
considerable
consistency between the
findings of the few studies
which have examined these
effects.”
Research & Resources:
Children: Unintended Victims of Legal
Process 2006 & 2007
This project tracked the needs of children
with imprisoned parents from the stage of
police contact to the point
of prison release
Research & Resources:
Court Based Family Support (2009)
An estimated 67,631 children aged 017 years are associated with adult
defendants processed in the
Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
An estimated 2,689 children aged 0-17
years are associated with adult
defendants who received a sentence of
imprisonment in the Magistrates’ Court
of Victoria.
 In 2012 VACRO commenced our
Family Links Program in Geelong
Magistrates Court
Research & Resources:
Next Generation on the Outside (2011)
•
Report looks at the ordinary
functioning of the criminal justice
system and the unintended
adverse effects on families and
children of offenders.
Each Step Equally Impacts Upon the
Family
VACRO Women, Family and Children’s [WF&C] team offer
services that provide information, support and counselling
at each step:
Arrest
Court
Bail/Remand
Prison
Orders
Community
Parole
Reintegration
Issues for Prisoner’s Families
Issues are complex depending on relationship to prisoner, nature
of crime, length of sentence
Issues include:
 Sadness and Grief
 Shame, guilt and anger
 Stigma
 Social isolation, rejection
 What, when and how to tell the
children
 Financial concerns, loss of income
 Relief
Barriers to Accessing Supports
Families are unlikely to come forward due to fears of being
judged, and embarrassment of ‘needing help’…often for the
first time.
“I found it really hard to tell anyone; even my maternal child
health worker and child care centre didn’t know my husband
was incarcerated. I was so worried that they would judge me
and my children. It would have made it easier if they
understood what I was going through” (Partner)
Children and young people can feel this even more acutely
with the pressures of relating to peers and wanting to fit in.
What about the Children?
•
•
•
•
Imprisonment has a profound effect on children
The stress associated with social stigma and isolation
Keeping secrets
Uncertainty and disruption about the absence then
reappearance of a parent
• Separation anxiety
– Worry that they have been abandoned or will never
see the parent again
– Worry that the remaining parent will disappear
• Difficulties at school
What Do We Know About These Children?
• Approximately 5% of all Australian children and 20% of
Indigenous Australian children have experienced parental
incarceration.
(Children, un-intended victims of legal process)
• Approximately 38,000 children have a parent in prison [Quilty
2005]
• “ Incarceration of a parent significantly increases the
likelihood of future incarceration of a child”
(FaCS 2003:5)
Grief – major impact
Name the grief : loss of what was and what was expected to be
Disenfranchised grief
My daughter was in such as awful state, self-harming. She was
struggling with the usual psychologist…but was so happy to get a
worker who understood the system.
Compound grief
We realised that there were a lot of problems at school, he was really
struggling and getting picked on a lot. I could see that he’s not just
being a brat: there’s other issues involved.
Complicated grief
So how does VACRO work with the
forgotten /unintended victims?
Emotional Cycle for Women,
Men, and Families in CJS
VACRO Information & Referral Worker
SKY Counselling & Community Consultation
Arrest
Family Information &
Referral Worker
Melbourne
Assessment Prison
Aboriginal Family Visits
Program
Post release
celebration
Child Care &
Transport Subsidies
Program
Video Visits Program
Pre-trial
FamilyPeriod
Links
Geelong
Magistrates Court
Family Support Worker
- Marngoneet Prison
Incarceration
Reality
VACRO
Women’s Mentoring Program
Pre
release
Sentencing
Link Out
Emotional Cycle for Women,
Men, and Families in CJS
VACRO Information & Referral Worker
SKY Counselling & Community Consultation
Family Information
& Information
Referral Worker
VACRO
& Referral Worker
MelbourneSKY
Assessment
Prison
Counselling
& Community Consultation
Child
Care
& Transport
Child
Care
&
Arrest
Family Information &
Subsidies
Program
Transport
Subsidies
Aboriginal Family Visits
Referral Worker
Family
Links
Program
Melbourne
Aboriginal Family
Visits
Geelong
Assessment Prison Program
Video Visits Program
Magistrates
Court
Pre-trial
FamilyPeriod
Links
Geelong
Magistrates Court
Post release
celebration
Program
Video Visits Program
Family
Support
Worker:
Family
Support
Worker
Marngoneet
- Marngoneet Prison
Incarceration
Reality
VACRO
Women’s Mentoring Program
Pre
release
Sentencing
Link Out
VACRO Women’s Mentoring Program
Men’s Transitional Services
Support for Children (& their families)
The SKY (Supporting Kids & Youth) Counsellor
- Social work / family therapy
- Lets the client define “family” (cultural awareness)
- Throughput
- Early intervention (from time of arrest, prioritising the
younger children)
- State-wide, outpost model.
- Flexible number of sessions
SKY Counselling
•
Child-centred family therapy
•
Lets the client define “family” (cultural awareness)
•
Early intervention (from time of arrest, prioritising
the younger children)
Examples of SKY Clients
• Multiple traumas
• Partners, parents, siblings of adult offenders… fearful of
the impact the situation may have on their children’s
future
• Divided loyalties between carer and mum.
• Reforming relationships and rebuilding trust (post
release)
Techniques & Therapeutic Frameworks
• Single session or Ongoing
• Family systems frameworks (structural, narrative, contextual)
• Grief & loss
• Trauma frameworks
• Creative arts
• Relaxation techniques
• Play
Examples of SKY Clients
The Closet in my Head
Client is 13
year old girl
residing in
foster care after
both parents
were
incarcerated.
SKY Community Consultation
Provides training sessions for community,
schools.
• Knowledge of the adult criminal justice system
• Understanding the impact of the system on children
and families
• Strategies
• Awareness of the resources available.
SKY Community Consultation
Community Consultation
Family-inclusive Practice
VACRO Children’s Officer
• Develops & maintains VACRO’s Children’s Policies & Procedures
• Consultation for all teams, including our Men’s services
• Training for all staff on working from a Family Inclusive persepctive
Victorian Charter of Human Rights & Responsibilities Act, 2006
Shared Clients within VACRO
Inclusive working with external agencies ie Odyssey Mirror Families, DHS,
schools
Why VACRO Works with Women
• Gender matters significantly in shaping patterns of
offending as well as the criminal justice system’s
response to criminal offending
• Gender is also important in examining the differential
effects of current policies and practices.
• The need to take into account the reality of women’s
lives, characteristics, responsibilities, and roles in
crime.
What works for women
from Women’s case Management Guide
March 2010
A study of women after prison found that effective services
were characterised by:
• A holistic approach
• Accessibility
• Non-judgemental
• Workers being reliable
• Having a sense of humour
• Believing the woman can change
• A focus on the woman’s strengths
VACRO Women’s Mentoring
Program (VWMP)
• Eleven year history, currently funded until June 2014.
• Assists women to integrate into the community through
the provision of support by voluntary female mentors from
the community.
• The program supports women exiting the
prison system AND those on community
corrections orders.
Social Isolation
Mentoring and Social Capital
• Human capital Thinking style, motivation to change
• Social capital The web of social relations within which we all liverelationships with family, informal social networks, relationships
established through work, etc.
• Human capital + Social capital = Desistance from crime
VWMP: Desistance model
1. Human Capital
•
•
•
•
Spending time reflecting on imprisonment, future plans, goals
Positive reinforcement of non-offending routines and thoughts
Challenging anti-social thoughts & patterns
Assistance with justice system eg. court support
• Ability to evaluate offending & prison
• Interest in non-offending lifestyle and commitment to putting
routines and behaviours in place for support
• Improved self esteem and self-worth
VWMP: Desistance model
2. Social disadvantage
•
•
•
•
Advocacy with Centrelink and other agencies
Assistance with budgeting
Link to training and employment opportunities
Identification of housing crises & referral to housing services
• Stronger capacity to advocate with services
• Increased likelihood of issues being identified & addressed
by services
• Increased resources to access employment/study
VWMP: Desistance model
3. Social Capital
• Egalitarian, trustworthy consistent, authentic friendship and
support
• Encouraging links with resources such as family and
services
• Assisting with links to work/study/volunteering
• Capacity for better relationships with support services,
families and other networks
• Sense of support & connection, reduced isolation
• Increased opportunities for work/study/volunteering
• Sense of community ‘safety net’
Social Isolation
The Volunteer Mentor
and the participant
spend time:
-going for walks
-shopping together to
get used to large
crowds
-attending classes
together to make new
friends
-helping develop goals
This helps to
break the cycle of
isolation and
increase the
participant’s:
self esteem &
confidence...
and leads to more
productive
participation in the
community.
Eligibility- Who is VACRO Women’s
Mentoring Program for?
• Participation is voluntary, not mandated.
• Women exiting prison (up to three months prior) or on
community correctional orders.
• Mothers, daughters, sisters, neighbours, partners.
• “Low” to “moderate” risk of re-offending.
• Gender-specific (women only).
• Average age of current program participants is 39.
• Indigenous women, women from CALD backgrounds.
• Women with histories of mental health issues, homelessness,
family violence, addiction.
• Women with physical and intellectual disabilities, women with
acquired brain injuries.
‘…she gave me the confidence; she
made me believe in me’
Volunteer mentors
Relationships with volunteers have a degree of legitimacy which is
difficult to replicate in normal worker-client relationships.
Training:
• Working with indigenous and
CALD women
• Transitional issues for women
• Addictive behaviour
• Mental health
• Correctional context
• Children and families
• Boundaries
The mentoring relationship
Relationships – the key
Other Allied
support
services
Community
Corrections
/ Parole
Housing
Woman
Alcohol &
Other Drug
Services
Referral
Sources
Mental
Health
Vignettes......
Tara had heard the teachers
at school whispering to
each other about her mum.
When Grandpa wasn’t
looking, Tara read the
newspaper and read in
detail what Michelle had
done.
Tara didn’t want to tell
anyone.
VACRO supported:
•Tara
•Granparents
•Teachers
•Mum [mentor]
Transitional Resources
Research & Resources:
The Transition Toolkit (2013)
• For families who are soon to be reunited
with a family member being released from
prison.
• Also for professional workers to provide
relevant support and guidance for these
families.
• Designed to help begin conversations –
sometimes about matters that are hard to
talk about – and help work toward solutions
for every member of the family.
Research & Resources:
Getting Started
•
Transitional Resource for Prisoners
• A guide for people being released from prison. It is based on
VACRO’s Getting Out book and covers the practical and
social needs during transition from prison to the community
• 10x booklets & 5x Information Sheets
New Beginnings, Stronger Communities
Research and resources
Supporting Women, Families
and Children
Community Education
Resilient Individuals and families
Safer Communities
www.vacro.org.au
Violet Lotter
Women’s, Children’s, Families Team Manager
9605 1969 / 0417 105 594
[email protected]
www.vacro.org.au
Gen Anderson
Women’s Support Services Coordinator
9605 1961 / 0419 379 120
[email protected]
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vacro - The Reintegration Puzzle