When a parent goes into prison it can have a huge impact on the family they leave behind. Children often experience having to move homes and sometimes schools because of the loss of income or benefits. If the parent was their primary carer, they may find themselves living with extended family or taken into care.
And all this is before we even consider the emotional impact of having a parent sent to prison. Prison is still a big taboo, and children report experiencing bullying and shaming when classmates find out.
The crime a parent commits does not invalidate the very deep love they may have for their children.
Repairing and maintaining that important connection between parent and child is the focus of our Christmas Angel Tree programme, which this year celebrates 25 years in England and Wales!
We receive so many notes every year from parents in prison who cherish the chance to feel closer to their children at this important time of year. A number of them told us that their kids wait to open their presents until mum or dad can call from prison, so that they get to share the joy of their kids discovering what they received.
It is something small, but it means such a lot. Michael*, whose daughter received a gift from him while he was in prison, became a PF volunteer after his release, and describes what it was like to realise the effort that goes into the programme behind the scenes:
“When I was wrapping the presents and seeing how many there were, and reading the notes—I got tears in my eyes to read one of them.
“I saw everyone in that room doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. It was very emotional to see what was going on. People inside don’t understand that there are guys that really care. For me it was an extraordinary experience.”
What Michael saw was the love that our volunteers and supporters have for parents like him. That love is rooted in the love we believe God has for each and every one of us, no matter our past mistakes. That love is what enables us to see each person as made in His image and worthy of our care and support.
It was that love that enabled Angel Tree founder, Mary Kay Beard, to realise:
“Oh, that’s the heart of a mama. She might be a thief like me, or a drug addict, but she has the heart of a mama.”
Will you bring joy to a family separated by a prison sentence this Christmas? Just £20 allows us to send a personalised gift to a child with a mum or dad in prison, on their behalf. Become an Angel to someone this Christmas.