Many suffer from the effects of crime, but one group of victims is often swept aside: the children of those who are sent to gaol. 

For kids, a ten-year sentence for their parent can be the same as doing time themselves. But SHINE for Kids, an organisation devoted to caring for these forgotten young people, helps put their families back together. 

SHINE began life in 1982, when a landmark government report highlighted the deeply troubling effect that prison has on the children of inmates. A group of like-minded community members volunteered to form a group in support of those kids, providing counselling and ensuring children were able to visit their mum or dad in gaol.

Gloria Larman, CEO at SHINE, has been with SHINE for 26 of those 32 years, and she believes it’s hard to underestimate the impact of having a parent in gaol. “When somebody goes to prison, theyre taken away from their children. But at the end of the day, theyre still a parent,” she said. “It doesnt mean theyre a bad parent, but it means that theyve made mistakes. Without regular contact, theyre not going to have a relationship.”

Often, those who are caring for the children simply don’t have the resources to enable regular visits. And, without them, many children begin acting out, or regressing in their development. “They need to know that their parent still loves them, you know?” said Gloria. “Its not their fault. Theyre caught up in this system.”

Overwhelmingly Positive

With the help of SHINE, children are able to schedule regular visits with their parents at the correctional centre, with support of a professional caseworker who guides them through the process. Although some kids are initially nervous about visiting, the effects are overwhelmingly positive in the long run. “By the end of the visit, theyre really relieved,” explained Gloria. “They got to cuddle their mum or dad. Theres a few tears sometimes - it can be overwhelming.”

As a charity, SHINE depends on the support from generous benefactors. A recent grant from the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation allowed SHINE to purchase a new mini-bus to take kids to and from their visits. “Without the financial contribution, it makes it very difficult to provide services,” said Gloria. “The Coca-Cola Australia Foundation allowed us to transport more children to keep their relationships going.”

Despite the difficulty of their situation, there are many success stories thanks to SHINE. “There are a lot of situations where weve helped children get through school and theyve gone on to get work and become quite successful,” recalled Gloria. “Relationships have been mended, especially where theyre the primary carer. They get out and they get their life back together - theres lots of those situations.”

To support SHINE for Kids, visit http://www.shineforkids.org.au/