8th June 2011

The project has made good progress in the first 15 months, with all partners actively engaged. The launch meeting in January 2010 at the University of Huddersfield helped to establish good collaborative relationships and was followed by subsequent meetings in Iasi, Romania, in September 2010 and in Paris, France, in March 2011. Over 425 questionnaires had been completed across the four countries by the end of the first year of the project.

The project has been promoted via media outlets and at international and pan-European fora, including United Nations, European Commission and European Parliament venues, the annual meeting of Children’s Ombudspersons from 25 European countries, at a World Congress of Social Psychiatry conference in Marrakech, Morocco and at relevant national conferences in Paris, Brussels and Berlin. The Eurochips network, one of the umbrella organisations in the Coping consortium, launched its annual European Prisoners’ Children Week (EPCW) during the first week of June, promoting Coping and presenting a series of recommendations on children with imprisoned parents to the European Parliament during the kick-off event in Brussels on May 25th, 2011. QUNO appealed for a Day of General Discussion on Children of Prisoners in 2011 to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which was granted and will take place September 30, 2011.

Children of incarcerated parents to be focus of CRC Day of General Discussion

‘Children of incarcerated parents’ will be the focus of the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2011 Day of General Discussion. The Day will be held on Friday 30 September 2011. It will be the first time any part of the UN has considered in detail the rights and needs of children with imprisoned parents and follows an appeal made by 55 NGOs and experts, including COPING members QUNO and EUROCHIPS, last September.

The Day will bring together policymakers, prison service officials, child development specialists, legal experts and others to discuss the issue. There will also be participation by children of incarcerated parents, directly or remotely. During the Day they will consider issues relevant to infants and young children who live in prison with a parent; as well as those issues affecting children who remain outside.

Please contact crcdgd@gmail.com for more information or to get involved, such as by preparing a written submission, attending the Day itself or providing materials for the accompanying exhibition on children of incarcerated parents.

Coping’s child-centred activities

The Child / Young Person Centred Group, made up of representatives from the COPING partner organisations, is working to ensure that the COPING Project keeps children and young people at the centre of all of its activities. The questionnaires and in-depth interview guides have been piloted with children and young people, and the final versions of these research instruments have incorporated their feedback.

The group is currently working on constructing a website for children and young people affected by parental incarceration. The young people with a parent in prison whom we have consulted have confirmed they would use the website, and have been clear about what features they would like to see on it. The challenge we are facing is how to ensure it is both interactive and safe.

We are also planning to support a few young people to present at and participate in the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion on children of incarcerated parents, described above. Our future plans include exploring the possibility of holding a conference towards the end of the COPING Project that would allow young people affected by parental imprisonment from across Europe to come together to share their experiences with key policymakers. We are in the process of applying for funding to support these activities.

Guide on interviewing children throughout legal proceedings

Catalin Luca, a COPING partner from Romania has recently published a handbook on the process of interviewing children throughout legal proceedings. The book ‘Interviewing children throughout the legal proceedings’ discusses how psychological concepts are applied in the context of Romanian domestic law, as well as international law. It provides guidelines on how to observe the rights of the child in different legal contexts: victim, witness, or in conflict with the law.

The guide draws on a psychological approach to interviewing the child: tailored to their age group, given the court proceedings, assuring the adequate treatment in terms of child interview.

The technical procedure of the interview is key, since it is aimed at facilitating communication between the child and the judge/prosecutor. The interviewer must assess whether the child is telling the truth and explore what facilitates, blocks or influences the child’s possible answers.

The guide was created with the help of Asociotia Alternative Sociale of Romania and is to be used by specialists involved in child protection (judges, prosecutors, lawyers, psychologists, social workers, etc). Publication of the book was funded by UNICEF Romania.

The guide can be downloaded free of charge from this link:

European Prisoners’ Children Week 2011

EUROCHIPS launched the second edition of the European Prisoners’ Children Awareness Week campaign running 1-8 June 2011. The general message of the campaign is that the issue of prisoners’ children is a public health issue, and specific attention needs to be paid to the repercussions of parental incarceration on the child’s psychological development and future socialization. The campaign’s main objectives are to urge the creation of national monitoring groups for these children in EU member countries, and to move policymakers at the EU level to endorse a series of recommendations that aim to improve prison visits conditions for children.

A kick-off event was held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 25 May, where a series of recommendations were presented to MEPS as part of a transnational EU-funded study on children with imprisoned parents, piloted by the Danish Institute of Human Rights. The overall objective of the study and recommendations is to promote the development of uniform legal rights, policy and administrative practices in the EU to secure the best interests of children of imprisoned parents.

 

Working with Action for Prisoners Families (APF)

Action for Prisoners’ Families (APF) is the membership organisation representing organisations working directly with families of prisoners across England and Wales, as well as representing the experiences and needs of families themselves. APF support the development of new and existing services, promote good practice on working with prisoners and their families both in prison and in the community, influence policy and raise awareness of the impact of imprisonment on children and families.

In October 2010 Kathryn Sharratt and Leanne Monchuk from the Applied Criminology Centre, University of Huddersfield attended the APF Voluntary Sector Reference Group. This was an excellent opportunity to publicise the COPING project and encourage organisations to contribute to WP4 Mapping of Services and Interventions.

On 19 May 2011, Kathryn Sharratt and Lesley Ward from Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group (POPS) presented at APF’s annual conference “What’s new in Research and Evaluation? Informing our work with prisoners and offenders and their families”. The pair provided an overview of COPING and discussed the role of the NGO in the project. The conference was attended by approximately 60 delegates from the Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service, third sector organisations and academic institutions.

Treffpunkt e.V. – Father-Child group

COPING members include nonprofit organisations, universities and umbrella groups. One of the nonprofit members is the German Treffpunkt e.V. Each newsletter will highlight an example of the work carried out by the associations involved in the COPING project.

Since 2005, Treffpunkt e.V., in tandem with the Nuremberg prison service, has been organising a bi-monthly Father-Child group, a service specially designed to support imprisoned fathers and their children by providing them with the opportunity to spend quality time together.

The programme consists of a theoretical and a practical element and pursues two goals:

– Strengthening and maintaining the relationship between father and child
– Providing stability and support for the children

During the theoretical session, a specific topic, such as “Feelings” is being addressed and discussed. The practical part is reserved for games and fun. Additionally the father-child group is complemented by a monthly reflection workshop for fathers only, during which they may share and express their experiences, expectations and fears. The project is carried out by two social workers specialised in social pedagogy.

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Author: rmchristen