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Offender Services and Programs staff in women's centres have completed training in the group-based program, Real Understanding of Self Help (RUSH), a 20 session Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills training program developed by Corrections Victoria. A pilot commenced in November 2011 in the three women's correctional centres.
CSNSW continues to provide Mothering at a Distance, a parenting program for mothers in custody. A joint development by CSNSW and Tresillian Family Care Centres, the program is funded through NSW Government's Keep Them Safe: A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing initiative. It aims to enhance the mother/child relationship, increase maternal sensitivity and reduce trauma during separation caused by incarceration. The program has a particular emphasis on Aboriginal mothers/care-givers who, when released, will have significant parenting responsibility for children aged 0 - 5 years. 56 women participated in the program. A process of co-facilitation enables staff in each centre to gain skills in running the program. This will contribute to the ongoing provision of the program beyond the funding period.
For further information about the program see:
Perry, V., C. Fowler, C. & K. Heggie (2009) Evaluation of the Mothering at a Distance Program. Barton, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia and Perry, V., C. Fowler, C. & K. Heggie & K. Barbara (2011) 'The impact of a correctional-based parenting program in strengthening parental skills of incarcerated mothers', Current Issues in Criminal Justice 22(3) 457-472.
Other parenting programs provided for women include Keeping Children Safe and Triple P at Wellington Correctional Centre.
A research project on parenting programs, supported by a UTS Partnership Grant has been established. Entitled Breaking-the-Cycle (BTC) the research project addresses a significant issue for an increasing number of Australian families, community services and society as a whole - parental incarceration. Currently, minimal research exists about incarcerated parents' needs, support and education to assist their reintegration into family life. This results in a potential inability to plan and implement effective support and education programs for incarcerated parents in developing critical life skills to break intergenerational cycles of inappropriate often punitive parenting, dysfunctional family environments and recidivism. The BTC project will generate knowledge to transform the design and delivery of contemporary and contextualised parenting programs for incarcerated mothers and fathers.
In order to improve family outcomes for children of vulnerable families, CSNSW provides early intervention support, services and programs that engage parents and children in appropriate activities. There are opportunities for mothers and female primary carers to acquire new parenting skills in a supervised environment that offers continuous guidance and support.
Maintenance of healthy relationships with family, kin and community is well known as important in supporting offenders to address their offending behaviour and return safely to the community.
Children up to school-age can be accommodated full-time with their mothers or primary care-givers in the purpose-built minimum-security Jacaranda Cottages adjacent to Emu Plains Correctional Centre and at Parramatta Transitional Centre. Children of school age up to 12 years are able to be accommodated at weekends and during school holidays.
Participation is determined by a rigorous assessment process. The Mothers and Children's Committee that includes representatives from DHS Community Services, SHINE For Kids and Justice Health assesses applications on the basis of the best interests of the child/ren. Final decision on approval is made by the CSNSW Commissioner.
To assist women in custody to access culturally appropriate legal services and to develop a connection with services that can continue post release Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre, Women's Legal Services NSW and Hawkesbury Nepean Community Legal Centre provide civil and family law advice to women in custody through a program called the Legal Education and Advice in Prison (LEAP) for Women. The LEAP initiative operates in the three Sydney metropolitan correctional centres for women Silverwater Women's, Dillwynia and Emu Plains. Solicitors from the three community legal centres provide monthly, confidential legal advice, casework and referrals. The community legal centres provide advice to 24 women per month and provide community legal education about topics including human rights law and other civil law matters. Clients make appointments for themselves or can be referred to the LEAP program by staff at each centre.
To assist women to transition successfully to the community, the Parramatta Transitional Centre provides a staged approach to reorientation to community living. Women with 18 months left to serve can go to the centre that accommodates up to 20 women and has facilities for children to live with their mothers as part of the Mothers and Children's Program. Women at the Centre are encouraged to access community support services, to undertake volunteer or paid employment.
Bolwara is located in Emu Plains and provides a transitional support program for women who have alcohol and other drug addiction issues. Focusing on Aboriginal women, the Bolwara has a staged program that supports women to take responsibility and access community-based services. Women who have 3-12 months of their sentence to serve and are classified as minimum security can apply to participate.