4th January 2008

Papa Vaart…, a Dutch association working on behalf of prisoners’ children that is part of the foundation Slechts op Bezoek (SOB), has joined the Eurochips network. Based in Rotterdam, SOB has been supporting the family members, friends and others close to offenders since 1996, the launch of Papa Vaart brings children with imprisoned parents within the scope of SOB’s initiatives. Papa Vaart…, literally “Daddy went sailing…”—a name chosen because so many children are not told the truth about a parent’s detention—has two main objectives: to raise awareness of the specific issues confronted by this neglected group of children; and to set up projects offering them genuine assistance.

Dutch Government to Increase Focus on Children of Imprisoned Parents 
The Dutch Justice State Secretary Nebahat Albayrak is taking steps to foster family ties between imprisoned parents and their underaged children to minimize trauma for the latter. The following measures have been tabled:

  • Standardized screening of offenders on entry to determine if they act as caretakers of children. Social services workers assigned to the prison can mediate in arranging support and care for the children if required.
  • Family contact officers for all institutions.
  • A minimum of four special child-parent visits organized annually at prisons, outside regular visits hours, with school days and public holidays being taken into account. Institutions may use services of external volunteer organizations to assist in parent-child visits.
  • Training for prison staff to ensure that security measures and procedures are carried out in a child-friendly manner.
  • Analysis by the National Agency of Correctional Institutions (DJI) to see if additional resources are required to prepare children for prison visits.
  • Efforts to make visitor’s rooms more child friendly.

Although the measures follow on from a study on detained mothers that the Verwey-Jonker Institute carried out for Humanitas in 2007, the government has declared most of the measures to be applicable to all detained parents in an effort to ensure that detained fathers are also given the opportunity to stay in touch with their children.

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Author: rmchristen