A SHINE for Kids Transport Worker describes her experiences
The Children’s Supported Transport Service appeared in a chapter (p37) of ‘What a difference a ride makes: Transport stories from people in Western Sydney’, a booklet published by the Western Sydney Community Forum.
Transport over troubled waters
IMAGINE you are a child and your parent is taken to prison. You want to visit but your family doesn’t have a car or perhaps there’s not enough money to travel. Or it may be that you’re simply caught in the middle of adult ‘stuff’ and you can’t make it there on your own…
The Children’s Supported Transport [Service] helps children visit their parent in prison. If they can’t get to a correctional centre, we’re the thread keeping the relationships going. We use different sorts of vehicles for short trips and long trips and very long trips. I’ve transported all ages from newborns to teenagers.
One five year old girl will always stay in my mind. She’d just found out that her Dad was not in hospital (as she’d been told) but was in fact, in gaol. On her first visit to him, I was amazed to watch this tiny girl tell Dad, ‘I’m really disappointed in you’ and ‘How could you do this to Mum and me?’
Every month after that we visited and at every visit I saw her understanding and her acceptance grow. They bonded while he was in prison. It’s an undeniable bond and watching it unfold made me realise how important the transport was. She’d let go of her anger and now that he is out, they have an amazing relationship.
If it wasn’t for us supporting this little girl and supporting the Dad as well, with his parenting skills, I’m sure she would have held onto a lot of her anger. If it wasn’t for that continuous, monthly visit who knows what would have happened?
Sometimes some of the best things we do happen on the road: in the car or the bus. Our transport workers are very experienced and they can listen when kids need to vent or answer questions that are worrying to them. I remember a little child asking me once, ‘Is Daddy’s room really, really dark?’ And I was able to reassure her that it wasn’t and tell her that she can ask her Dad any question she wants and not to keep it bottled up. Another time, we had a 16 year old who was so angry about her Mum missing all the important moments in her life and in those monthly rides back and forth, we could give her emotional support and she could express her sadness.
Sometimes, the family has the means but not the will, to travel. When marriages break down, it’s the children who can get caught in the middle. Sometimes a parent simply won’t take them for a visit. Or the inmate themself might contact us and say ‘Look I don’t want to see my ex-wife but I do want to keep a relationship with my children.’
Children have the right to maintain a relationship with both parents regardless of any wrongdoing or what might be going on between them. Without transport, it can’t happen. I started in this work as a volunteer mentor in a community program. I was matched up with this 11 year old Aboriginal boy who was one of seven children in his family. I would collect him from his house, once a fortnight and transport him to all these different outings and that was great. Just being able to get out of the house and experience things, one-on-one, made all the difference. I’ve always had a passion to work with children and now I’m hooked.
Thanks to Samantha who was a caseworker with SHINE for Kids when she shared her story.