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The cause for children of prisoners is not always without controversy, and as such raising awareness on this issue is frequently challenging.
Practitioners working within the field are familiar with these challenges. The stigma surrounding prisoners is seen in the media, community and on an individual basis. News coverage paints a picture of prisoners deserving their punishment of separation from family – yet rarely do these agencies recognize the other side of this scenario – children who must carry the stigma and impact of separation as well.
Children of Prisoners Europe works to ensure that these children receive their definitive right to maintain contact with their imprisoned parent in cases where it is beneficial to the child. In most cases, regular contact and communication greatly increase the self-esteem, resilience and social development of these children.
Raising awareness about the importance of this right for children to maintain quality contact in child-friendly environments (visiting centres and waiting rooms, for example) became a focal point for Children of Prisoners Europe (at that time, 2010, Eurochips). The need for a shift in the social perception of these children became obvious, and thus the campaign was born.
The European Prisoners’ Children Campaign began in 2010 as an awareness-raising campaign on the topic of children of prisoners throughout Europe.
At that stage, the campaign was focused around European Prisoners’ Children Week – a week in which the Eurochips members in their various countries hosted a variety of events and activities to raise awareness at the national level.
In 2011 The Eurochips office staff and volunteer team in Paris started the awareness-raising effort with virtual tools and materials – focusing on gathering an online audience and momentum for the cause using various social media and blogging tools.
The 2nd European Prisoners’ Children Week Campaign was the first year that the use of an online petition was established. At that stage,The petition targeted the Members of European Parliament in general.
By the 3rd year, the week had gained considerable momentum. The use of the campaign e-banners and buttons became more widely accessible to organisations outside of the Eurochips network and the office staff saw an influx of interest from outside parties in the research, campaign and general topic on children of prisoners throughout Europe.
The 3rd year also saw the introduction of the slogan : Not my Crime, Still my Sentence. The slogan resonated well with outside organisations and individuals and Eurochips saw a large increase in interest via social media with the slogan and the use of a campaign animation.
Each year the campaign grows in tools, interest and materials. The feedback from the public and raise of interest on the topic in the media as well as online reflects the first steps in a change of perception.
Raising awareness on this vulnerable group of children continues to be challenging but after 4 years, the Children of Prisoners Europe team strongly believe that the first steps in awareness raising at the EU level on children of prisoners have been successfully taken.
Volunteers, members and staff have spent 4 years working on gaining momentum for the campaign and will continue to do so on increasingly greater scale in the future.
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