Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope

by Children of Prisoners Europe
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Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Help 2.1m Children of Prisoners in Europe to Cope
Lina's testimony
Lina's testimony

Thanks to your generous support of Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE), momentum has been building on the European level to obtain recognition for children with imprisoned parents. 

With our partners across the EU and in countries such as Norway and Switzerland, we’ve been making strides at the Council of Europe level. Having presented at two major Council of Europe conferences in 2015 and 2016, we were approached by the Council for Penological Co-operation (PC-CP) to develop a draft Recommendation on children with imprisoned parents, due to be published early next year. Over the past year, we’ve been working closely with the PC-CP to develop and refine this extensive document. Once adopted, the Recommendation along with its accompanying report will be distributed to all 47 Member State prison services, with a view to improving visiting practices for children of parents in prison.

European Forum on the Rights of the Child: Personal testimonies from young people

Earlier this month, we helped organise the 11th European Forum on the Rights of the Child at the EU, entitled “Children deprived of liberty and alternatives to detention”, which brought together over 350 participants from UN agencies and bodies, global, European and national organisations and individuals working to protect and promote the rights of children deprived of their liberty and those with parents in prison.

Key to the event’s lasting impact on participants were three powerful personal testimonies by young people affected by parental imprisonment. Lina from Sweden talked about her mother’s imprisonment and her own isolation and loneliness, in a side session dedicated specifically to the topic. Linnéa, also from Sweden, spoke to the plenary about her experience having a father in prison, recalling how happy she was when her father was able to return to the family home through the use of electronic monitoring. Dylan from Scotland spoke about his experience after his father was imprisoned when Dylan was 12, touching on the importance of peer and school support:

“When my mum told me that my dad was in prison, I was 12 years old and just about to start high school. I think that people can assume parental imprisonment only affects the child’s relationship with that parent, but it can have an effect on almost every other aspect of their life. As a child, I felt completely disconnected from everyone.

School becomes something of a mine trap — gossip and rumours spread fast: […] the last thing you want is for someone to find out. […] There’s so much stigma attached to parental imprisonment — […] it forces you to become a really good liar. […] When you’re so concerned with not slipping up all the time, and you’re carrying around this huge burden it makes it almost impossible to truly establish an emotional connection with anyone.

[…] I retreated into myself, I spent a lot of time alone, had very poor social skills and was generally very unhappy for a number of years. In hindsight, the only reason I felt like I had to hide it is because I’d never heard anyone talk about it before. We had never discussed the legal system in school. There was no information on how to deal with this at all, and I truly felt like I was the only person in the world with this experience.”

Dylan later started working with KIN (, an arts collective for young people experiencing or having experienced the imprisonment of a family member. He and a group of other young people created First Words (, a video conveying their reflections and feelings, how they have navigated the issue and found ways other than their experience with prison to define themselves. 

Beyond Europe: Children with imprisoned parents and the UN

On Day Two of the Forum, keynote speaker Judge Renate Winter, Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) emphasised the need for children separated from a parent in prison to be higher up on agendas in general. An important call to action from the UN level.

We couldn’t do any of this without the help of people like you. Thank you for your ongoing support! 

Children of Prisoners Europe

Dylan's testimony
Dylan's testimony
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COPE schools posters in 7 languages
COPE schools posters in 7 languages

“Many prisoners and their families feel isolated. Organisations that assist them run the risk of being isolated also. Being part of an international network like COPE is supportive; hearing about other ways of working is refreshing and educational.”

At Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) all hands are on deck for the 2017 edition of our pan-European campaign “Not my crime, still my sentence”. This year, thanks to your generous donation towards the concrete and attractive campaign materials on offer, over twenty COPE member organisations are taking part from across eleven different countries in Europe.

Over the next few weeks we expect to receive feedback from over 100 schools across Europe who have not only received the awareness-raising posters you helped fund, but who have also been offered support and training by our member organisations on the ground in order to help them meet the varying needs of children affected by parental imprisonment.

Participating in an international campaign with shared messages and goals can boost and motivate organisations supporting children and families of prisoners on the ground, who may otherwise feel cut-off from others.

“Not my crime, still my sentence” offers a practical way for members to connect with other organisations across Europe, to share ideas, good practice initiatives, and to advocate with a more powerful voice on behalf of children affected by the imprisonment of a parent. Linking 85 members across Europe and beyond, the campaign not only shows the similarities in children’s experiences across borders, but can also be motivating for the service providers supporting them. 

No one is better placed to promote the rights and needs of children affected by parental imprisonment than the children themselves. COPE’s Dutch partner Exodus Nederland has worked with children and young people with imprisoned parents to develop a list of ten wishes:

We very much wish…

  1. to feel safe at home during the arrest of our parents
  2. that information would be immediately made available to us, such as where to get support
  3. that we could visit our parents without difficulty
  4. that prison officers were friendly and considerate
  5. that we could get in touch with our parents when we need them
  6. that we had someone to share our thoughts and sorrows with
  7. that our teachers knew and understood what it means for us to have an imprisoned parent
  8. that social workers and probation officers would not only talk about us but with us
  9. that we were not stigmatised or excluded because of our imprisoned parents
  10. that municipalities and social workers would look after us, even if we are not yet registered at social services.

Children with imprisoned parents and their specific needs are at the centre of COPE’s work. Recent research studies like the EU-funded “Coping project” have helped us to understand the universal needs, but it is important to remember that each child is unique, and responds differently. Even in the same family we see different reactions among siblings to the imprisonment of the same parent. Some children seek anonymity, others peer support. Case-by-case analysis and support are therefore the ideal, and reassurance for children that there is no one correct way to feel or react. We aim to help children through their individual experiences without systematising or normalising the response. We accompany children throughout the journey of their relationship with their imprisoned parent.

And we would like to thank you for accompanying us.

Children of Prisoners Europe


Stay in touch with us via our newsletter and social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget, our fundraising page is still open, and we can always use your support in order to reach even more children affected by parental imprisonment. So if you know of anyone who might be interested in supporting us via a donation, please do pass on the link!


Support for children of prisoners
Support for children of prisoners


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With your invaluable support, we are well underway in our preparations for the 2017 edition of our awareness-raising campaign “Not my crime, still my sentence”, launching in June.

Children separated from a parent in prison frequently suffer emotional, social and economic difficulties. Without support, they are vulnerable to these and other difficulties—exclusion, bullying, stigma, behavioural and mental health issues. School performance can slip. We are reaching out to schools right across Europe to ensure that these children receive the adequate, timely and meaningful support they need to prevent them from falling further between the cracks.

And this is thanks to you.

Thanks to your donation, our campaign this year will be focusing on raising awareness in schools, both among general students and teachers but also directly among children impacted by parental imprisonment. COPE is currently working on the child support packs, lesson modules and visuals. Eye-catching posters have already been designed, with the varying emotions of children with imprisoned parents in mind, and have been sent to our 84 partners to be distributed in schools across Europe and farther afield.

Many children with imprisoned parents do not know that there are people to whom they can turn for support. Reasons for this can be diverse: they do not know that these types of NGO exist; their non-imprisoned parent or caregiver is not aware of the support and so they are not encouraged to ask for it; they may not even ((not)) see a need for support. These simple campaign visuals will increase our reach to children with imprisoned parents. We will be able to provide them with support in the form of resources, psychological and psychosocial help and, above all, a safe place to express their feelings.

The poster  aims to provide an easy way for children to make contact with our teams who are working in or near their schools and to show that they can talk to a school staff member they trust about their experiences. With the generous outpouring of support we have received, we are now able to increase the number of multilingual posters we can provide to schools and broaden our reach in schools across Europe. Translations into other languages are underway, and once received, we will add QR codes to the posters so that children who prefer to learn more online can connect right away.

One of our Swedish member organisations, Solrosen, has launched a further programme in a new part of Sweden and has decided to focus specifically on schools, using COPE’s “Not my crime, still my sentence” campaign. Thanks to the support from our donors, this means that they will be able to reach more children with imprisoned parents in Sweden than ever before.

We would like to thank you again for your support. If you haven't subscribed to our email list, do so here to keep up to date on our other projects.

With our gratitude,

Children of Prisoners Europe

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Children of Prisoners Europe

Location: Montrouge - France
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @networkcope
Project Leader:
Children of Prisoners Europe
Montrouge , Ile-de-France France

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