Extraordinary Lives delivers a range of services to children with a parent in prison, aiming to prevent intergenerational cycles of crime. The core goal of the program is to build long-term, positive peer and mentor relationships, and to enhance children’s connections with their families and schools.
Motivated by a holistic Christian worldview and delivered with support from local churches, Extraordinary Lives seeks to reduce children’s sense of isolation and build hope for a bright future in which they can thrive.
The program cares for children in five important ways:
Children are connected to a long-term, local mentor who will help guide, encourage, and support them to more positively connect with their families, schools, and local communities. Mentors help counteract negative pressures towards unhealthy relationships, drugs, and alcohol.
We find that many children of prisoners do not tell anyone about their parent in prison due to shame and stigma. Through Camp for Kids, children of prisoners are given the chance to meet with peers and mentors who understand their situation, and who have experienced the same thing themselves, while having fun together through games and activities which build resilience and teach them new skills.
This safe space allows for honest conversations and connections, which helps reduce loneliness and builds long-term friendships.
When a parent goes to prison, the family often loses the primary breadwinner. This can leave families in financial hardship, making it hard to put food on the table, let alone buy school uniforms, books, and stationery. These items are necessary for children and teenagers to confidently participate in school. Extraordinary Lives provides the extra material assistance they need, including support for online learning if lockdowns continue around Australia.
Prison Visit Support
While many children wish to visit their parent in prison more frequently, they are often limited by their guardian’s availability or relationship with the inmate. Extraordinary Lives mentors help facilitate extra visits as appropriate, preserving and honouring the relationship between parent and child.
Children in the Extraordinary Lives program will also receive a gift at Christmas time on behalf of their parent in prison. This helps to maintain the critical parental connection and lets a child know their parent still loves them and is thinking of them. Learn more about Angel Tree here.
Children with a parent in prison are six times more likely than their peers to end up in prison as adults. They are the forgotten victims of crime, and we believe it is critical to step in at a young age to offer tailored support for the unique challenges they face.
Through this range of services Extraordinary Lives enables children to build resilience, achieve goals, and increase their community connections – developing a stronger platform for future success.
“I’ve been involved with the Extraordinary Lives program as a mentor for five years, and it has been such an honour to watch the way the young people grow in themselves and in their confidence. I love getting to catch up with all the other mentors and mentees on camp each year and see the way their relationship has grown, and the new depth they go to.
The most powerful part of the mentoring style of relationship is that if you commit to being there for the ups and downs with the young person and just stick at it, you will stand out from many of the other relationships the young person has. I noticed this as each year I would be invited to my mentee’s birthday, and there was rarely a familiar face there, even her own mother came in and out of her life. So it is just being a constant that holds so much impact in their life. And then being able to speak into that potential they have holds a lot of weight because they know you are there for the long haul, for the fun times and the tough times.”
– Extraordinary Lives volunteer mentor