“You’re the best dad in the whole world!”: AMC Child & Parent Days a huge success
Our first Child & Parent Days at Alexander Maconochie Centre since the pandemic were a resounding success as children from all over the state enjoyed precious time with their mums and dads in custody.
Kids of all ages, from 1-year-olds keen for a snuggle to 17-year-olds excited to fill their parents in on big plans for high school, joined their mums and dads for a day of fun.
Organised in partnership with the ACT Corrections Aboriginal Liaison team, activities included weaving, craft, lego, face painting, board games and more.
And, of course, lots of free play so that families can bond and make up for many missed hours.
About half the kids who came for the days don’t get to visit their parent in custody regularly, so days like these are incredibly important to them.
Going in, some kids were a little nervous as they didn’t have their regular carer with them, but the older kids encouraged the younger ones, and the excited little groups soon forgot all their worries.
One 17-year-old girl said that on regular visits, her parents often argue, but today was a special time for her to bond with her dad alone, and she “didn’t want it to end.”
The dads were also a little daunted at first by the idea of so much time being the sole parent, but these fears disappeared quickly.
Within minutes, one dad was competently feeding his baby and then put them to sleep on his chest. Another dad spent the entire time doing crafts and happily chatting with his daughter.
One little boy watching his dad playing with his older brothers spontaneously shouted, “You’re the best dad in the whole world!”.
To the kids, Dad is still their hero, even if he’s not with them all the time.
We made sure that the area was full of activities and bright colours and was clearly for play and fun, and not a sterile visits area in a Correctional Centre. One dad was dripping with sweat from running around joyfully playing with his little 2-year-old! A spontaneous water fight between one family started, and laughter was all around.
Or team said for the most part, the mums and dads didn’t need support and slipped straight into being a parent again, “they knew what they were doing and are just mums and dads in their day-to-day life.”
“It was lovely to see the dads face-painting their kids, and then the kids had a turn!”, our team said.
“The group of men left at the end of the day heading back to their quarters covered in glitter and paint!”
Days like these allow kids to have that all-important bonding time with their parent, and parents in custody to take on parenting responsibilities.
One mum was very anxious about such a long time being the sole parent, but she said afterwards that it felt like being a mum was the most natural thing, and the time together had resolved her commitment to doing the work she needs to to go home.
Mums said their time at the Child & Parent Day would sustain them until they can be a mum at home again.
Another mum said that this contact with her son was so important as it motivated her to book into a rehabilitation clinic for when she’s released. She said it gave her the drive to “be the person [I] want to be for my kids.”
Of course, the hardest part of both days was saying goodbye when it was over.
The mums really struggled, and our staff made sure to check in with them the following day. They said that as hard as saying goodbye is, not getting this vital connection time is much harder.
These special hours together and rare one-on-one time with mum or dad helped kids feel connected to their parents.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make this special day happen, including Prisoners Aid and ACT Corrective Services.
Please donate today so that we can run these special Child & Parent Days and help kids know that mum or dad is still there.