Connecting mum and daughter
A social worker shares her story of helping reconnect a mum in prison with a daughter she'd been separated from since birth.
An easy decision
When six year old Bella* came into the care of Oranga Tamariki, her social worker Anne* was determined to help her to get to know her mum.
Her mother was in prison and had only seen her daughter once since she was born.
Anne contacted Bella’s mum, and quickly found an opportunity to bring them together.
“Mum was finishing a tikanga Māori course in prison. She was allowed one family member to attend her graduation and she chose her daughter.”
There was no hesitation to fly Anne and Bella across the country for the occasion.
Taking a risk for reunification
At the prison, the little girl was wary, she didn’t hug her mum, and she stayed close to Anne.
Anne felt the gravity of her decision to reunite mother and daughter.
“It did feel like a risk because I knew it would’ve been so hard for her mum to go through that experience, and after that first visit I wondered if I’d made the right choice.”
But Bella’s mum stayed strong, and Anne was determined to help her develop a relationship with her daughter. Together they worked hard to facilitate constant contact and to reaffirm to Bella how loved she was by her mum.
There were regular phone and video calls, and Bella’s mum always told her daughter, “I’ll be talking to you again soon.”
"Her daughter is her world, and Bella has come to understand she is safe with her mum; she can talk to her, hug her, and she knows she won’t be turned away.”
A loving relationship
Since that first visit, there have been three more, and each time the mother and daughter bond has grown.
On the most recent visit, for another graduation ceremony, Bella had to be held back from running up to her mum during the pōwhiri process! She then clung to her mother.
Anne is proud of the progress they have made. “Bella’s mum has never given up. The resilience and strength she demonstrated to get through that first visit was incredible.”
“This mum talks about her daughter all day, every day. Her daughter is her world, and Bella has come to understand she is safe with her mum; she can talk to her, hug her, and she knows she won’t be turned away.”
Bella’s mum is now out of prison, and Anne is planning for an extra special visit for a certain day in May.
“I really want Bella to experience her mum on Mother’s Day.”
*Names changed for privacy.