Hear an edited version of a compelling interview with Kirsty de Vallance, a former child of an imprisoned parent – and subsequently a SHINE for Kids mentor – with Richard Fidler recently in one of his Conversations on the ABC.
Kirsty's father was a senior customs officer found guilty in 1987 of importing drugs into Australia. The shame and stigma turned the small-town family upside down – and also took the ultimate toll on both her parents. (MP3 8.8MB)
Hear an interview with Gloria Larman, CEO SHINE for Kids, and Jamielee, a former client of SHINE, by Richard Aedy recently on Life Matters, ABC Radio National.
Gloria explains the impact of parental imprisonment on children and Jamielee tells her first-hand experience of it and how SHINE for Kids helped her through it. (MP3 5.5MB)
Being separated from a parent is one of the most traumatic events a child can
experience. Whether that parent is in prison, has died or abandoned the family,
the grieving process is much the same. There is the same fear, anxiety, sadness
and anger. And often the same problems of financial hardship and disrupted care
are thrown into the mix.
But some things are unique to the children of prisoners.
Things like shame. A fear of being ostracised. And a terrible sense of isolation.
The isolation is frequently physical. A parent in prison often triggers a move to
a new community and a new school – a severing of ties with existing social and
support networks. But even more debilitating is the isolation that comes with
guarding their terrible secret. One thing that makes these children so easy to
overlook is that they make it their life’s work to stay hidden.
These young people deserve our help because none of us would choose for them
to suffer. But, beyond the humanity, there ís also a more selfish motivation. When
we help them we are also helping ourselves: children of prisoners are five times
more likely than other kids to end up in prison themselves – a high price we all
have to pay.
What happens for a young person who has a parent in prison?
There are a lot of consequences for children or young people who have a parent in prison. During Group Work the kids themselves have identified as being:
- Isolated – feeling lonely
- Stigmatised – feeling they aren't as good as others
- Ostracised/ignored – left out
- Missing out
- on time with Mum or Dad
- on activities, because there isn't enough money
- Angry – at Dad, at Mum, at the police, at themselves
- Deserted – betrayed, let down
- about Mum or Dad not being OK
- about what is going to happen to them now
- Humiliated/embarrassed – most kids wouldn't dare tell any of their friends
- Stressed – stress can trigger anger/aggression, fits of crying, even bedwetting
- Guilty – a lot of kids feel like it is their fault that mum or dad is in jail
- Confused by changes in family dynamics
- Insecure – most kids no longer feel safe and secure, they miss their parent
- Low in self-esteem
- Having to become the adult
Statistics indicate that at any one time approximately 15,000 students in NSW are directly affected by the imprisonment of a parent, and that 60,000 students under the age of 16 have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives. The peer groups of each of these students can also be affected indirectly.