Help offered to mothers in prison

16:00, Mar 27 2014
Liz Thomas
BRANCHING OUT: Liz Thomas, left, and Pila Wati with a pillow made by one of the mothers at the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility. The tree design symbolises the woman’s desire to help her children grow.

Love is not always enough when you have a baby in prison. Pila Wati knows that first-hand.

The social worker visits the Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility in Wiri every week to deliver a parenting support programme to the mothers in the Mothers with Babies Unit.

It is part of a three-year contract between the Department of Corrections, Family Works and Plunket.

The goal is to help the mothers bond with their young ones and prepare them to reintegrate back into the community once they are released, Mrs Wati says.

Plunket nurses do health checks and teach practical skills like brushing a baby's teeth, and Mrs Wati focuses on building relationships between mother and child.

She also teaches the mothers how to reduce conflict, deal with anger and boost their own and their children's self-esteem.


Service manager Liz Thomas says many of the women's own parents have also been in prison and they do not have healthy role models to emulate.

"The one constant theme that all these mothers have is the love of their child but love is not necessarily enough," she says.

Women in the Mothers with Babies Unit are able to care for their children until they reach two years of age, depending on strict codes of behaviour.

The unit has space for six women and babies in two self-care houses where they do their own shopping, cook their own meals and manage their own day-to-day living arrangements.

Mrs Wati helps them make plans for when they are released and they complete art projects and goal charts that express their hope for their babies.

Some of it comes down to simple skills that other people take for granted.

"For example, many of the mothers find it difficult to praise their child, because they have never been praised themselves."

Mothers involved in the parenting support programme say it is helping them to be better role models and to put their children first.

Manukau Courier