This Europe-wide project organises football games within prison walls between an imprisoned mum or dad and their children. Child-parent contact when a parent is behind bars is a known protective factor. Yet prisons are rough places. Children undergo searches, hear metal doors slamming. We offer an alternative way to promote contact and inclusion and empower kids. "It was short but beautiful. Dad and I haven't had fun together for 2 years. Being with him makes me happy. I thank you." -8-year-old
The impact of a parent's imprisonment on children can be negative and enduring when support is not provided. Children usually experience this as a great loss, often compounded by stigma, shame, self-blame and social exclusion. Their needs and rights have historically been unconsidered and unmet. Prison environments don't help: visiting a parent in prison is a daunting and sometimes traumatic experience for children, impeding their right to meaningful and ongoing contact with a parent.
When children visit an imprisoned parent outdoors in a fun and playful environment with other families present, levels of shame and anxiety are usually reduced and the child-parent bond is strengthened. Children know that the parent still loves them, did not abandon them. Furthermore, the project plants the seeds for systemic change encouraging child-friendly practice within prisons. Its European scope adds leverage to advocate for children's rights at the transnational level.
The project will improve children's life outcomes, knowing their parent in prison still loves them, key to child resilience. Prison authorities will be more aware of children's needs: eg, prison visits that don't coincide with school time; prison settings offering quality contact with the parent in prison; prison staff who understand children's challenges; greater child protection within prison settings. It will help reduce stigma and boost empathy in communities aware of what kids are facing.
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