In Europe, some 2.1m children have a parent in prison. This can lead to bullying, social exclusion and feelings of shame and guilt. We work to raise awareness, improve public attitudes and foster the inclusion of children of prisoners. Above all, we aim to listen to and promote children's needs and ideas, to ensure they feel valued and included. This project aims to include prisoners' children in a Global Forum, impacting not only them but the other participants; fostering respect and inclusion.
Having a parent in prison causes upheaval. Children can feel sad, stigmatised, bullied, excluded. Studies show that public attitudes play a key role in the well-being of prisoners' children. The CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming Society) Forum aims to create a better world for and with kids. We want to send prisoners' children to participate; to feel the support of other kids, to feel included, that their ideas/opinions are valued, that they have an active role in shaping their world.
CATS' theme this year is "inclusion". Children with a parent in prison can feel like they deserve what is happening to them, they often feel ashamed, different from other kids. CATS will explore exclusion (what it is, how it feels) and inclusion (what we can do). The Forum will be a unique experience for these children, who can thrive in a healthy mountain environment, feel other kids' support, get a taste of their potential, feel included and valued.
Prison can be a taboo subject that is little understood. Sensitising children and adults about what it is like to have a parent in prison helps create a more supportive environment, fostering understanding, support and inclusion. This Global Forum is a one-off event, but we anticipate a cascade effect from the 200 participants whose awareness of and understanding for prisoners' children will be boosted. Raising awareness is key to changing attitudes; changing attitudes is key to changing lives.