Every year large numbers of Australian children are adversely affected by parental contact with the criminal justice system. Children of offenders are more likely to experience parental drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, mental illness, poverty, housing instability, child abuse and social isolation.
Having a parent in prison can have profound health and development effects, and can disrupt education, negatively impact family relationships, social engagement and community cohesion. Children of convicted parents go on to offend at higher rates than children without an incarcerated family member. In spite of this high level of vulnerability and disadvantage, children and family members of offenders are not the core business of any government department and receive very little if no specialist support.
For this reason, the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) developed its SKY (Supporting Kids and Youth) program. SKY provides wrap-around support through counselling, and referral for children and young people aged 5-17 who have a family member in the criminal justice system as well as their families. In addition to providing specialist clinical services, SKY offers training and education to schools, mentoring programs and family services agencies about ways in which to identify and engage families who have a member in the criminal justice system.
SKY has been a Ross Trust Collaboration since August 2008. In this time, the Trust has approved $900,000 to be paid over six years for VACRO to create and pilot the program. Since 2008, over 150 families have benefited from SKY’s intensive, flexible support. SKY has helped families remain connected and children felt supported through difficult transitional periods in their lives.
Visit the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders website.