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“They Didn’t Even Let Me Say Goodbye”: A Study of Imprisoned Primary Carer Fathers’ Care Planning for Children at the Point of Arrest in Victoria, Australia

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In Victoria, data indicates that in 2013–2014 there were 74,992 adult male arrests, yet little formal attention has been paid to the parenting status of these men, despite knowledge of the impact of parental arrest and incarceration on children being well established. This article addresses a gap in the literature by providing new insights into the experiences of arrest of 34 primary carer fathers incarcerated in Victoria. It examines how incarcerated primary carer fathers experience planning processes for their children at the time of arrest and what factors facilitate or hinder the planning process. To do so, the article draws on data gathered for an Australian Research Council funded study conducted in Victoria and New South Wales between 2011 and 2015. Key issues include: the primary location of paternal arrest; the presence, or absence, of children at the location at which the arrest is made; police awareness of children; and subsequent discussions between police and fathers about suitable care. Findings indicate that half of all arrests took place in the family home. Children were present in 10 of these arrests and half were characterised by force, a large number of police, or weapons. Findings also indicate that in around one-half of all arrests, children were not physically present, despite fathers continuing to have responsibilities for these children. Despite 27 of the arrested men reporting that the police were aware (or made aware) of their children, almost all of these men (n = 26) were not asked about suitable care even when their children were physically present. Overall qualitative findings depict an absence of any discussion about children between police and fathers during the arrest process. The study highlights the demand for guidelines regarding child sensitive practice when a primary carer father is arrested.
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Keywords: Parenting; arrest; children of prisoners; criminal justice; fathering; policy; risk

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Work, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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