Sandra's Story

FAMILY CASEWORK

My name is Sandra and I was referred to the CRC Family Worker 12 months ago when my 28-year old daughter was taken into custody.

This was my family’s first and only experience with the criminal justice system. The day she was taken into custody started like any other day. She had dirty plates in the sink, a load of washing to hang out, she dropped her two young daughters at childcare and went to court with the expectation of her case being adjourned, as had happened on three previous occasions. The opinion of her solicitor was that “she wasn’t going in”. However, the prosecutor’s opinion differed. My daughter was taken into custody and she didn’t return home for nine months. She didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her baby girls or to prepare them in any way for her absence. I was in absolute shock.

The impact on her daughters was indescribable. They would wake with night terrors, cry for their mummy and also began wetting the bed. I knew I had to provide some stability for the girls so I took them in so their father could still attend work. This meant I had to organise childcare closer to me and negotiate with my employer to work from home for part of the week. I was embarrassed to explain the reason for the changes.

At the same time as the girls moved in with me my seven-year old son’s behaviour became more challenging, to the point where he started seeing the school counsellor. The focus of my attention was on the girls’ wellbeing and I couldn’t attend to him to as the same way as I had in the past. My 17-year old daughter needed psychological intervention and was suicidal as a result of her sisters’ imprisonment. The separation from her sister was increasingly unbearable so she started to see a counsellor. To add to this, I was also scared of facing judgment from my friends, so I told only a few people about my situation. For the entire time, I was grieving for my daughter, angry at the system and trying to keep it together for the sake of the rest of my family.

During this difficult time, my CRC Family Worker provided me with emotional support and kept me on an even keel when I felt down and out and was ranting and raving about the injustice I felt had been dealt to my daughter. She calmed me and explained things to me; out of all of the services I contacted for support, she was the only one I felt I could rely on. She helped by writing support letters to childcare centres and phoned welfare officers at the prison when I was concerned about my daughter’s emotional wellbeing and didn’t have the strength to do it.

The family worker also advocated for my daughter to be moved to Jacaranda House, where she could have her girls with her. The only things that kept me going during this difficult time were the support from my CRC Family Worker, knowing the strength of character of my daughter and knowing that she would be coming home – that one day finally there would be an end to this nightmare.