In 2003 the San Francisco Partnership for Incarcerated Parents published the Bill of Rights for children of incarcerated parents. The Bill of Rights recognizes that children’s needs extend well beyond physical comfort and security. This bill of rights is based on work originally done by Gretchen Newby of Friends Outside, a California organization that addresses the special needs of families affected by incarceration. The following are excerpted from Children of Incarcerated Parents: A Bill of Rights.
1. I have the right to be kept safe and informed at the time of my parent’s arrest.
2. I have the right to be heard when decisions are made about me.
3. I have the right to be considered when decisions are made about my parent.
4. I have the right to be well cared for in my parent’s absence.
5. I have the right to speak with, see and touch my parent.
6. I have the right to support as I struggle with my parent’s incarceration.
7. I have the right not to be judged, blamed or labeled because of my parent’s incarceration.
8. I have the right to a lifelong relationship with my parent.
Losing a parent to incarceration is a life-changing event. Those who work with children impacted by incarceration can use this Bill of Rights to guide policies and procedures that can help to mitigate some of the trauma and can help children develop the resilience to live positive, prosocial lives.
In March, 2012 the UN Human Rights Council passed a Resolution (A/HRC/19/L.31) regarding the rights of the child which contains substantial sections relevant to children with incarcerated parents, a number of which mirror “The Bill of Rights for Children of Incarcerated Parents” conceived of in the U.S. by the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership. The Bill of Rights can be viewed here.