Contact experiences and needs of children of prisoners before and during COVID-19: Findings from an Australian survey

Catherine Flynn, Lorana Bartels, Susan Dennison, Helen Taylor, Susy Harrigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Most of the research examining children visiting a parent in prison indicates that visits have a positive impact on children's well-being, their connection to the imprisoned parent and the parent themselves. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a significant change to prison visits worldwide, with limits or bans on face-to-face contact. Understanding the experiences and needs of children during this period remains limited. This paper presents the findings of a survey of 84 carers of 184 children across Australia, investigating children's experiences of contact with their imprisoned parent both before and during COVID-19 restrictions. Although most carers reported maintaining contact during restrictions, a range of difficulties were noted: reduced availability; the effect of prison-based issues, including lockdowns; and the suitability of video/telephone visits for young children. Some described the benefits of videoconferencing, including reduced travel time and cost, and not needing to take children into a prison environment. Despite this, respondents typically described the negative impact of restrictions, and lack of physical contact, on children's emotional well-being. Our findings suggest that, for video visiting to be successful, it should be complementary to in-person visits, tailored to the needs of children, with support offered to families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
JournalChild & Family Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Australia
  • children
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • parenting
  • prison visits

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