One of the first Family Visits Program participants caught the team off guard. When the program was conceptualised, the expectation was that the interaction would be mainly between women and their children. In this case, a woman was referred to the program to help her strengthen her connection with her sister. 

Toward the end of Kath's incarceration, she and her sister Anna had begun personal Zoom visits and phone calls, but both admitted to finding this challenging as the conversation often resurfaced events from the past. They would become increasingly agitated with one another and this would lead to arguments. 

The Family Visits Program Support Worker began with individual sessions with each of the sisters. It soon became apparent that historical events and longstanding complex family dynamics had established patterns of behaviour and communication that neither felt were helpful or productive for their relationship. 

Individually, the women acknowledged this was the first time they were focussing on their relationship. With the Support Worker, they were able to identify shared outcomes they wanted to achieve in the program, including defining boundaries with one another and strategies they could use when their conversation became distressing.

Their first video visit resulted in discussion around practical - and lockdown friendly - activities the sisters could to together once Kath was released, as well as how they would manage different schedules, emotional capacities, and what to do when difficult conversations would inevitably arise.

In the debriefing sessions each sister had with the Support Worker, both acknowledged how helpful it was to have the Support Worker on the video calls to keep the conversation on track, and for the Support Worker to recognise the complexity of their relationship. 

During their engagement with the Family Visits Program, the sisters increased their personal phone calls and Zoom visits. Both reporting that the visits made them feel closer by helping them learn how to better communicate with one another. In the lead up to Kath's release, Anna said she was feeling less nervous about Kath being released and confident they had begun to rebuild the foundation of their relationship.

Read more about the Family Visits Program