Bronagh Malcomson’s Story
Bronagh Malcomson travelled to Croatia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy in 2016 to investigate how to tackle the inter-generational cycle of offending by promoting parent-child relationships.
Bronagh works for Parenting Matters, a service provided by the charity Barnardo’s which supports parents in custody in three prisons in Northern Ireland. She decided to apply for a Fellowship as she wanted to see what additional supports could be implemented to assist families when a parent is imprisoned.
During her Fellowship, Bronagh visited three organisations helping families affected by parental imprisonment: Relais Enfants Parents in Brussels, Exodus in The Netherlands and Bambinisenzasbarre in Milan. Travelling to seven different prisons, meeting professionals, staff, prisoners and families, Bronagh gained first-hand experience of some innovative practices used inside and outside of prison, including providing resources to help children feel comfortable in a prison setting and allowing imprisoned parents to see their children alone without other family members.
Bronagh also attended the Children of Prisoners Europe conference in Zagreb, Croatia, where she benefitted from meeting many fellow professionals.
Through her Fellowship, Bronagh was able to experience how other European countries view and treat children and families affected by imprisonment. These observations were encouraging to her as it highlighted that Northern Ireland and the UK are at the forefront of family interventions in prison, providing a holistic and positive service for thousands of families experiencing prison visits and parental separation.
However, Bronagh realised that, by introducing some new initiatives, the support offered by Parenting Matters could be improved and, through liaising with professionals she met during her Fellowship, she developed three new resources to be used with children who are visiting a family member in prison.
These resources take the form of innovative, colourful and easy to use booklets which make prison visits a more comfortable and fulfilling experience for children. One of these resources is a small map which allows a child to visually navigate their way through prison visits procedures, finding Mum or Dad at the end of the route. The resources can also be used as a means of assisting contact with pre-teens and teenagers who find it difficult to connect with their parent over the phone or in a visiting room, allowing them to complete activities together to learn more about parent and child. To accommodate all families, Bronagh has developed these resources in two age ranges: 0-8 and 8 years and over.
The development of these new resources is currently in a pilot stage and, through securing further funding, Bronagh hopes to fully develop these so they can continue to be used in the prisons she works in.