COPE annual conference and network meeting 2016


Children with a parent in conflict with the law: What are their best interests? How can they be met?

Friday 20 May 2016
Stara gradska vijećnica, Zagreb, Croatia

Ombudsman for Children, Croatia and Children of Prisoners Europe


On Friday 20 May 2016, Children of Prisoners Europe and the Ombudsman for Children, Croatia, jointly organised an International Conference on children whose parents are in conflict with the law, held at the Stara gradska vijećnica, Zagreb, Croatia. The Conference, attended by 200 delegates from 22 different countries, was organised as a high-level forum of international and European policymakers, European Parliament members, judges, police and prison personnel, child welfare agencies, child psychologists and civil society organisations with the purpose of better defining children’s best interests when a parent is in conflict with the law, whether imprisoned, arrested or on trial, and seeking to ensure that these interests are met through the development of integrated support initiatives for children based on good practice.

Each year, the Children of Prisoners Europe network co-organises an international conference, hosted by one of its network members. Previous conferences have focused on child participation, child rights, parenting from prison, listening to the child, telling the truth to the child. The goal of these international conferences is one of exchange: to compare national challenges and concerns and share good practice.


Conference outcome report

Click here to download the 2016 conference outcome report.


Conference programme

Click here to download the conference programme.


Speakers’ bios

Click here to download the speaker’s bios.


Conference presentations

L’intérêt de l’enfant, ou comment d’un concept vide peut-on faire un engagement sincère (French only)
Alain Bouregba, co-founder, Children of Prisoners Europe
Message to conference participants and speakers
Andrea Orlando, Italian Minister for Justice
The European Commission perspective on children of prisoners
Margaret Tuite, European Commission Coordinator on the Rights of the Child
Children of prisoners in the National Preventive Mechanism
Lora Vidović, Ombudswoman for Croatia
Beyond blaming and shaming: Parenting support as a key to a healthier society
Valentina Otmačić, Head of UNICEF, Office for Croatia
Parents in prison: What support does the child need?
Bruna Profaca, Ph.D. Child Protection Center of Zagreb
Media and children of prisoners
Igor Kanižaj, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Zagreb
MA#ME study findings: working toward sustainability
Ivana Zanze, RODA, Croatia
Improving Parental Competencies of Young Prisoners
Jurica Pačelat, Status M, Croatia
Family Engagement in Prisons in England and Wales
Andy Keen-Downs, Pact, UK
Support and Advocacy for Children and Young People affected by the imprisonment of a family member
Katherine Copperthwaite, Pact, UK

Poster presentations

Children of incarcerated parents: International standards and guidance
Quaker United Nations Office
Children speaking out
For Fangers Pårørende
Exodus advocates on behalf of family members of detainees
Exodus Nederland
The inter-generational cycle of offending and the impact on the family
Bronagh Malcomson, Barnardo’s Northern Ireland
Children in the Shadows: from marginalisation to actualisation – the social and legal context of the children of incarcerated parents
Ana Krakan and Doroteja Jačmenica Pušenjak
(Croatian only. For English text, click here)



The videos shown throughout the conference proceedings can be found here.


On the 20th May, COPE co-hosted its annual conference with the Ombudsman for Children Croatia, at the Old Town Hall, Zagreb, entitled Children with a Parent in Conflict With the Law: What are their best interests? How can they be met? Over 200 delegates attended the conference, which began with an introduction from the Ombudswoman for Children, Ivana Milas Klaric, and an opening address from COPE founding member and former president Alain Bouregba on what constitutes the best interests of the child and the need for the “tailor made” over a “one size fits all” approach.

The Croatian National Debate team debates the issue of the best interests of children of prisoners versus the importance of state security

This was followed by a lively discussion from the Croatian National Debate Team that pitted the best interests of the child against the need for security in the criminal justice system, drawing out the key themes of children’s rights and further developing the idea of “the best interests of the child”, topics that would remain central to discussion throughout the day.

The morning session featured speakers from a range of key international organisations, including Renate Winter of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Margaret Tuite, Child Rights Coordinator for the European Commission, Valentia Otmačić of UNICEF Croatia, and Croatian MEP Tonino Picula.

Bruna Profaca from the Child Protection Center of Zagreb highlighted the importance of how support is given to children of prisoners and how maintaining the child-parent bond and quality child care are important protective factors for the child, and Igor Kanižaj of the Faculty of Political Sciences from the University of Zagreb, who shone a spotlight on the damage that can be done to children of prisoners by the media but also their potential as a tool to help raise awareness for the issues facing children of prisoners.

The conference also provided an important platform for NGOs to share examples of their own work and best practices with an international audience. Croatian NGO Project M discussed their work in targeting negative discourses on masculinity in Croatia as well as sensitising young men and prisoners to the responsibilities of fatherhood; Croatian NGO RODA discussed their important work supporting imprisoned mothers in Požega prison; and PACT presented on the pressures facing the criminal justice system in the UK and the role children of prisoners and prisoners’ families can play in aiding resettlement and reintegration after release, as well as highlighting their new “Hear Our Voice” project that will see training delivered across 100 schools in London.

Renate Winter and Margaret Tuite at COPE 2016 conference in Zagreb

Margaret Tuite on Twitter

Pact UK will deliver training to 100 London schools on children of prisoners. Excellent. @networkcope

The afternoon finished with a panel discussion chaired by Rachel Brett, formerly of the Quaker United Nations Office, that shifted the focus on to what was next for children of prisoners and what steps were are necessary now to tackle the issue in future.

Panel discussion chaired by Rachel Brett "Where we are - what are the next steps?"

COPE COO Programme FINAL_Zagreb_16 05 2016