19th June 2012

EUROCHIPS welcomes four new full members into the network—Carrefour Prison of Switzerland, NIACRO of Northern Ireland, Families Outside of Scotland and the Children’s Ombudsman’s Office of Croatia. All of the organisations have been doing pioneer work on behalf of children with imprisoned parents.
Geneva-based Carrefour Prison accompanies children on prison visits, trains professionals and raises awareness on the impact of parental incarceration, and runs a family visits centre at Champ-Dollon Prison. The association recently opened a new creative workshop for children, and is currently developing its activities throughout French-speaking regions of Switzerland.
The Children’s Ombudsman’s Office of Croatia, a special parliamentary advisory body, pioneered the issue of parental incarceration in Croatia as part of its work promoting children’s rights. It handles individual cases of children with parents in prison, and promotes research and legislation on the issue at large. Many Croatian prisons now have child-friendly play areas in visiting areas, for example. Last year, the Children’s Ombudsman’s Office Croatia encouraged and monitored the ongoing process of the implementation of the Responsible Parenting Programme in all prisons and family centres.
The programme aims to promote parental responsibility through support systems for imprisoned parents and their families, to help develop positive family relationships and alleviate the negative effects of separation. It also seeks to improve mental health and promote a network between penal institutions and family centres. The programme has been implemented in 21 penal facilities and has involved approximately 270 prisoners. Evaluations indicate that participants have gained a greater awareness of the importance of respecting their children’s rights and needs; of the various difficulties their children can face during the incarceration; and of the need for imprisoned parents to remain active participants in their children’s upbringing.
Families Outside is an advocacy and awareness group for families in Scotland affected by incarceration, providing information and support to affected families and training professionals in the criminal justice system, schools and the health, child and family sectors. The organisation participates in the development of strategy and policy for women, and is currently developing a Child Impact Assessment tool. Recently, it hosted an event in the Scottish Parliament to feed into the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion on Children with Imprisoned Parents, in September 2011. This included participation from a grandmother and her three grandchildren, and was supported by an organisation called Circle Scotland. The children wanted to stop visiting their mother in prison due to the negative experiences of trying to maintain contact. The youngest of the three had never visited his mother in prison and their perspectives on the topic aided the discussion.
NIACRO, in Northern Ireland, offers support to people and communities affected by crime. It works with the Northern Ireland Prison Service and Northern Ireland Probation Board and other parts of the criminal justice system, seeking to reduce crime and its impact on people and communities. NIACRO offers services to children and young people, as well as to prisoners and their families. The Family Links service provides families with information and support when someone is imprisoned, and practical and emotional support through telephone contact, home visits, information, transport to the prisons, welfare advice, childcare support and family support groups.

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Author: rmchristen