International Network for Children with an Incarcerated Parent Launched!

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A new dawn has started, on May, 8 2015,  an INTERNATIONAL NETWORK FOR CHILDREN WITH INCARCERATED PARENTS was launched  in Dallas USA, following two meetings with 22 delegates comprised of academicians, practitioners and human rights activists; all working to help children who suffer violation of their human rights due to the incarceration of their parents.

Through these meetings, it was determined that there is a great need for an international network designed to encourage sincere open communication and collaboration to strengthen all efforts to specifically support these many forgotten children.  This supposition has been stated before by participants that took part in the UN Committee on the Rights of The Child Day of General Discussion (DGD) September 30, 2011.  It is believed that the humble cooperative sharing and learning of experiences, knowledge, research and best practices will help all involved to strengthen and cultivate a more satisfactory system for the care of children affected by parental imprisonment  in each country.  This will also encourage the establishment of a successful general joint agenda.  This meeting of ambassadors signaled the launch of the distinct International Network for Children of Prisoners.

During the  meeting that took place on May 7, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  Delegates from official organizations in Uganda, United Kingdom, Scotland, Switzerland, Belgium, India, Central America and the United States introduced themselves and shared the work that they are currently doing around the world.  The discussions in both meetings were based primarily on a “white paper” (aka: “goal sheet”, as understood to the Americans present) that was written to spearhead this international network by Francis Ssuubi of Uganda  assisted by Benjamin Raikes  of the UK, Rebecca Ginsburg of the US,Susannah Sheffer of the US, and Laurel Townhead – QUNO Switzerland.

Both of these meetings took place on the sidelines of the International Prisoner’s’ Family Conference, a conference that originally focused greatly on the families and inmates of Texas, later the United States of America, and has also attracted international attention  this year to become an International Prisoners Families Conference.

The International Network for Children with Incarcerated Parents will be focused primarily on the children who are innocent collateral victims of incarceration.

Ms Laurel Townhead, Representative for Human Rights & Refugees at Quaker United Nations Office -QUNO, gave a keynote address at the opening of the meetings.  In her speech, she gave a background of what happened on September 30, 2011,  when the UN Committee on the Rights of The Child devoted its Day of General Discussion (DGD) to the topic of children of incarcerated parents.   She particularly expressed the importance of the international network to QUNO and that the work QUNO does in Geneva around international policy with the UN means nothing if it does not make any difference to the lives of children of prisoners.  “We don’t do what we do because we want a resolution passed for the sake of it; we want to do something that can be used domestically, locally, and internationally by everyone”, Laurel said.  She emphasized further by saying that “the International network means that we can communicate what is being done at the UN to those who can do something with it.”

One notable outcome from these meetings was a proposal to have an international conference, and for it to potentially take place in New Zealand in January 2017.  Verna McFelin, Founder and CEO and Liz Gordon, President  of Pillars, Inc New Zealand, offered to host this great event and even provide a special tour of a local women’s correctional facility ,a tour of a privatized prison , and cultural/indigenous experiences.  It is also possible that there will be an opportunity to meet with the Minister of Corrections support.

Different delegates were recorded on video talking about what they think about the need of the International network, Sandra Joy, Sociology Associate Professor at Rowan University, said that The international network will offer so many  opportunities for children of prisoners. their issues will be heard and they will receive services . since her area of focus is children impacted by death row , Sandra said that, the network will help children of death row inmates to get the recognition they deserve,  the network will validate their issues and  will also  shame the USA government to do more for families affected by  death row inmates.

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The organisations that were represented in person include Prison Fellowship International,Quakers United Nations Office QUNO,The Ridge Project,Morning Tears,Corrections India,Pillars Inc New Zealand,Families Outside Scotland,Families Prisoners Conference ,Texas after Violence,Education Justice Project,Wells of Hope Uganda,Chestnut Health Systems,BLAC US,Citizens for Prison Reform,The Respect Alliance,Huddersfield University UK, NNAPES Latin America and Wings for Life International.  The Organisations that were unable to attend sent in messages and their Logos were displayed.  These organizations were Barnardo’s of England, I-Hope of the UK, Penal Reform International, POPS of England, Invisible Walls  of Wales IWW, Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE), Bryggan of Sweden, Central Connecticut State University of USA.
It was an incredible event and passion for these innocent children of incarcerated parents was undeniable among the various English dialects.

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The delegates in attendance discussed a wide range of issues related to the creation of the International Network for Children of Prisoners, and eleven delegates signed up to serve on the steering committee.  It was further decided that the committee will be divided into subcommittees for more in-depth discussions via skype, emails and phone.  Their tasks will be to regularly strive to come to an agreement on several issues that could not be handled fully by the steering committee; for example, the name of the network ,Virtual and Physical base, registration among others, etc..

The brain Child behind the International network, Francis Ssuubi, was applauded for fronting this idea of bringing people together to formulate this network. Francis has been a profoundly devoted advocate for children of inmates.  He is the founder of Wells of Hope Uganda and  has spoken at various events.  The most notable among them is 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

To organize the International network meetings and launch, Francis Ssuubi  worked together with Ben Raikes, a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Social Work at  Huddersfield University UK.  Ben participated in the  7th Framework COPING Research Project  among other work on children with a parent in prison.  Francis Ssuubi and Benjamin Raikes were seconded,  and they  agreed to continue to serve as co-chairs for continuity and momentum of the International Network  for children with an incarcerated parent.

Francis Ssuubi
Ivi Brown
International Network for Children with Incarcerated parents

About the Author: inccip

International, based in America

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