Another 12 participants have completed the Society’s latest run of Project Relate, a parenting and visit-coaching programme that aims to strengthen the relationship between inmates and their children, as well as with their children’s caregivers.

Held between January and March 2022, the latest run included five three-hour sessions, held weekly, for the inmates. Three sessions were held virtually and two, face-to-face. These sessions helped all parties understand and acknowledge the impact of incarceration, helped inmates parent confidently and capably while incarcerated, and improved communication and conflict resolution through regular contact. Inmates and caregivers were also taught how to help children cope during this time, including how to manage any negative emotions. 

Following the programme’s completion, families are usually allowed an open visit at the prison, subject to Singapore Prison Service’s approval. Due to safe-distancing measures, however, this bonding opportunity was held virtually with Superheroes as the theme. 

The virtual televisit kicked off with a charades icebreaker – family members role-played various superheroes before a sharing session on superhero qualities participants wished they had. This helped families understand each other’s perspectives and interests, with a view that it would spark future conversations. During the second half of the session, families were given some private time and space. 

For caregivers, the programme also provided an opportunity to meet other families in similar circumstances, and to share coping mechanisms.

“It has reinforced the importance of staying strong during this period. I was also inspired by how other caregivers coped with the changes in their lives, and overcame the various challenges that life posed,” shares one participant whose husband is in prison, adding that she also better appreciates the role she can play in ensuring her children do not feel isolated.

Project Relate’s participants are referred to the programme by the Singapore Prison Service, and have children aged seven to 16. The programme is aimed at helping participants develop empathy and positive communication skills, so family units are strengthened. Casework support is also offered to families with no or poor formal support.

Superhero fun: Family members participating in a charades activity with their inmate parent during their virtual visit

Children Outreach @ Children’s Society’s Ms Umamaheswari D/O Somo Pillay, who facilitated the sessions for the inmates and their children’s caregivers, says the programme helps inmates emerge from incarceration stronger.

“It is heartening to see inmates actively participate. Sharing during the group activities allows them to see the commonalities in their experiences, which in turn creates a safe space for them to be more open to learning. It’s important that they can reintegrate into society.” 

Thank you to the Singapore Prison Service, whose participation and support made Project Relate possible.