Parent and practitioner dynamics: Exploring practitioner roles in a secured Mother and Baby Unit.


This paper reports on a small-scale study of practitioners in a mother and baby unit (MBU) in a women’s prison. Research was conducted using semi-structured interviews and literature was examined to gain understanding of practitioners’ and female offenders’ experience of frameworks, guidance and personal approaches to relationship building. The data was transcribed and coded in a thematic approach and, from that, a set of findings were critically analysed, including the role of support, multi-agency working and constraints to practice. The paper found that these factors were all consistent in responses from the practitioners, implying a shared set of working values. Support was found to be a term used by practitioners to highlight how they develop aspects of parent self-efficacy through their relationships with mothers. This varied from the use of an open-door policy to key worker meetings to build upon parental child development knowledge. Multi-agency working was also found to be a factor that can bring about support for families, from life after prison to financial help. The paper discovered that practitioners work with internal and external services to build relationships in a wider network. Lastly, constraints to practice were a dominant theme: it was found that practitioners can struggle with aspects of trying to maintain relationships, including having an inconsistent workforce in the setting and manipulation by offenders. Moreover, solution-based discourse in the paper highlights the need for effective assessments to be carried out on what works for practitioners and offenders inside the unit. Further, the paper emphasises the importance of research in explicating relationships in MBUs with potential to significantly impact positive family outcomes, and also points out the need for further research upon release from the prison system.


Prison; Women; Children; Mother and Baby Unit; Practitioner roles; Support; Relationships.

How to Cite

Hill, C., (2017) “Parent and practitioner dynamics: Exploring practitioner roles in a secured Mother and Baby Unit.”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 3(1). doi:


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Charlie Hill





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