Voyage Play Therapy has recently been awarded a grant from GAVO / Gwent Regional Partnership Board Intermediate Care Fund Small Grant Scheme 2019/20, with the original focus being to run a parent and child group on a week-long intensive basis. The central aim of this group is to support families where a parent had been living away from the family home; whether that was due to scenarios whereby parents have been serving time in prison, been taking part in a rehabilitation programme or encountered migration and detainment challenges.

This was scheduled initially to take place in Newport, South Wales as a pilot project in the summer holidays. Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, we were now able to purchase resources in line for running the project next year and are now using this time to gauge interest and develop the project to the stage where it will be ready for delivery.

It is hard to find exact figures for how many children have a parent living away from their family home and will be intending to return home again. This is especially due to people not wanting to share such personal and sensitive information.

There is research that shows between 200,000 and 300, 000 children every year are affected by having a parent in prison (Kincaid, Roberts and Kane, 2019).

We know that over 6000 children are being looked after away from home (Fostering Network, 2020) and that the main desire of families and the children is for the family to be reunited provided it is safe to do so. When this happens, it has been published by NSPCC (2015) that if a ‘return home’ isn’t successful, perhaps due to a lack of support, then it can cost services £61,614.

This is in stark contrast when comparing this to the cost of supporting children and families to costs which average to around £5627. Statistics for parents away from the home intending to return are hard to find but we know that in England, 69% of adults receiving treatment for problematic drug use said that children at home were not receiving early help or support (Gov report, 2020). It is unclear if this includes private and residential rehabilitation centres. Based on anecdotal information, aftercare for those leaving residential rehabilitation can vary widely across counties and is often short-term and focussed on one person in the family system.

Additionally, when people are resettled into their community, they sometimes don’t want ongoing reminders of why or how long they have been apart from their family members, particularly when it comes to their children. It can also be hard to take time out from any work or for children to take extended absences from school, particularly if this has already happened due to visits taking place in custody.

The quality of contact in these types of situations is diminished and it can be extremely hard to maintain a positive relationship, and to adjust back to family life. This week-long intensive course has been proposed to seek to make inroads in this area, and provide the means to support for the family on point of referral and once the intensive has taken place. This would involve relationship building between family and professional before the intensive experience and debriefing support afterwards.

Creating an enjoyable and memorable week provides a positive milestone for families to continue building on the positive work the parent away from the home has taken part in. Peer groups have normally been the most successful medium employed for those in recovery and so it is a model that is recognised. Using a theraplay informed approach provides support for parent and carer at the same time, promoting a positive attachment and repairing any ruptured attachment that may have come with separation. Voyage Play Therapy acts as a neutral organisation and is not affiliated to social services, probation, substance misuse or resettlement workers that may be a source of mistrust.

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* 1. What is your age?

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* 2. What is your gender?

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* 3. In what city do you work?

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* 4. What is your job role?

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* 5. In your experience, what do you perceive to be the crucial factor which makes aftercare and/or resettlement successful?

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* 6. What have you observed being some of the main reasons why most people return to prison/relapse/children return to care?

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* 7. Project: Flotilla is a pilot project for 8 families in Newport to promote positive family relationships following reunification or parents returning home. Working with 2 Theraplay therapists, parents and children will meet and work with therapists leading up to a 5 day intensive ‘camp’ (non-residential) with peer families.

In order to access the ‘flotilla’ project the parent will have spent time away from the family home, be in active recovery and have no conditions preventing them now living in the family home. Furthermore, the children must be aware, in an age-appropriate way of the reasons for their parent’s absence – specialist support is available for these conversations.

During the camp, they will take place in specific therapeutic activities designed to enhance their relationship together and create positive memories. After the camp, children and families will be provided with aftercamp support to implement further activities at home.

If you were to highlight below what further beneficial content or specific skills would you think families would need to cover throughout the 5 days in addition to the theraplay therapy?

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* 8. Is there anything you think the project is not meeting in terms of meeting the diverse range of needs of the families you have worked with?

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* 9. Any other comments

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* 10. Would you like to provide or receive any further information/take part in an interview? If so, please leave your email address below. There is no obligation for this and all data will remain confidential.

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