Baby Steps in a prison context: parents' perspectives Evaluation of a relationships-based perinatal education programme

Woman and baby

Pregnancy and the first few months of life are an important time for families. Baby Steps is an NSPCC antenatal programme that continues after the baby is born. It is designed to attract and engage 'hard-to-reach' parents, including parents in prison and parents from ethnic minorities. It helps prepare them for their new role in caring and supporting their baby.

As well as being run at a number of sites for parents in the community, the programme has also been delivered in men's prisons, a women's prisons and a young offenders' institute.

This report summarises qualitative findings from in-depth interviews with parents who are in prison, or who have a partner in prison. This is one of several reports from the evaluation of our Baby Steps programme. This is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: Helen Brookes and Denise Coster
Published: 2014

  • Parents said that important benefits of the Baby Steps programme were that it improved their communication skills and enabled them to spend extra time with their partner. Some parents also said their relationships with their partners and babies had improved as a result.
  • The programme was seen as an important source of information for parents in prison because there was little other information or guidance about parenting available. The sessions were also valued as a place where prisoners’ status as a parent was recognised.
  • For fathers in prison, an additional benefit of the programme was that it helped equip their partners to cope better without them. This lessened their feelings of frustration and guilt about not being able to provide the support they wanted to.
  • A key factor in the success of the programme was the sense of having dedicated time and space for parents to address their concerns and to share experiences with other parents.
  • The lack of control that female prisoners felt they had over their lives, and the social isolation they experienced as a result of being in prison limited the extent to which they felt they could implement what they had learnt on the programme.
  • The findings suggest that the programme works best when both parents are able to attend together and when it includes both pre and postnatal sessions. It is also important that the programme is flexible enough to take into account the constraints of the prison context and the transient nature of the prison population.
Acknowledgements 4
Key findings: Young people's version 5
Key findings 6
Executive summary 7
Chapter 1: Background and method 10
Chapter 2: Outcomes for parents 13
Chapter 3: Impact of prison context 20
Chapter 4: What worked well and suggested improvements 25
Chapter 5: Conclusion 30
Appendix 1: Interview topic guide (female prisoners and female partners) 31
Appendix 2: Interview topic guide (male prisoners) 35

"Doing the programme made me feel excited about having a baby, before that I was just really worried about it changing my life too much."

Please cite as: Brookes, H. and Coster, D. (2014) Baby Steps in a prison context: parents' perspectives. London: NSPCC.

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