Losing a child to adoption whilst in prison is one of the most traumatic and disempowering experiences imaginable. After Adoption‚Äôs Inside Outside project offers support to birth mothers in prison whose children have been or are planned to be adopted. It also offers support on release and through re-settlement.
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The trauma of losing children and the resulting, often unrecognised, grief leaves birth mothers in prison vulnerable to mental health issues, stigmatisation and isolation. On their release this is likely to result in a return to addictive and offending behaviour, as often the only place where they feel they can return is to the networks and communities where they are vulnerable to crime. There is also a reported gap in follow-through of service provision once individuals are released. This all increases the risk of subsequent children being removed and placed in the care system. Since 1997 our work in prisons has aimed to help birth mothers deal with the impact of loss and trauma of their children, through individual counselling and groupwork. We help parents understand the process and implications of adoption - and any other forms of separation from their children - and any potential role they have in their child‚Äôs life in the future. Outside prison our role continues, to ensure mothers have access to the kinds of support they require and thus to support them in their aim to stop reoffending and having children taken into care. The constant stream of referrals made to this project demonstrates the necessity of and demand for this work, and discussions with the prison authorities conclude that there is an enduring need for this service. Although After Adoption‚Äôs prison work has been recently boosted by voluntary funding and pilot scheme funding under the Cabinet Office‚Äôs social exclusion agenda, this is time-specific and we need to secure longer term sustainability. One of the ways in which we seek to do this initially is by undertaking an evaluation project to measure the impact of the work, which in turn will enable us to demonstrate the long term impact and outcomes, and leverage further funding.
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