Children & Young People Centred Work

What is Child / Young Person Centred Work about?

The COPING Project is designed to produce findings that will improve the well being of young people and children affected by the imprisonment of their parents. Therefore it is essential that young people and children affected by these issues can participate in the Project in every way possible, and have their voices heard.

How will young people and children be included in practice?

One option is to form steering groups made up of children and young people who have experienced having a parent in prison. The plan is to establish these groups of young people as soon as possible where this is feasible. We understand however that in some countries it will be difficult to have on-going steering groups due to the children of prisoners being dispersed over a large geographic area. Where this is the case it is anticipated that children and young people will be consulted about COPING by whatever means are most practical. It could be that they are consulted informally when researchers meet them.

The current thinking for the United Kingdom is to have two steering groups for different age groups. One for younger children, perhaps up to the age of 11 years, and one for older young people aged 12 – 18. It may be appropriate to have a separate group for 16 -20 year olds. This is to reflect different perspectives and needs. However the exact age groups will be determined by each country and what the children and young people feel most comfortable with. The steering group will be open to all children and young people who have been affected by parental imprisonment, not just those who have participated in the COPING project research.

What will the children and young people's steering groups do?

The steering groups will meet at regular intervals, ideally at least once every two months. The group will be open so that new children and young people can become involved when they hear about the COPING project through being involved in the research or other means. The children and young people in the steering groups will be updated about how the COPING Project is developing at each steering group meeting, and they will have the chance to feed in their views. They will play a very important role in helping to guide the project in terms of how it can ensure all decisions made are child and young person focussed. For example an issue that has come up regarding the design of the children's questionnaire is whether it is appropriate to ask children the offence for which their parent is in prison. The views of young people will be very helpful in terms of resolving this.

Will children and young people be involved in informing others about the COPING Project and the research findings that emerge?

Yes they will! We know that policy makers listen when they hear directly from children and young people. The idea is that children and young people involved in the steering group will have a thorough understanding of the Project and therefore will be well placed to explain it to others.

Therefore we want to involve the children and young people in all possible meetings. This includes COPING consortium meetings as well as other events such as UN Meetings that focus on the rights of children and young people. We anticipate that children and young people will participate in person as well as by means of videos and artwork as an alternative means to convey their views.

It is hoped that the children and young people involved in the steering groups will become "champions" of the COPING project.

How else will children and young people be involved in the COPING project?

We also have plans to set up a chat facility within the COPING website, so children affected by the imprisonment of their parents can communicate with one another. We will ensure that this is securely to avoid any potential for misuse of this site. We are also considering setting up a Facebook link, again assuming this can be done securely.

We also want to gather together the views of children using a variety of different mediums. For example in the UK, the world famous poet Lemn Sissay, who himself grew up in a children's home, has indicated he will work with young people involved in the COPING Project to assist them to produce poetry about their experiences. We also want to encourage young people to express their views and recount their experiences, for example through digital story-telling and artwork, building on the excellent work done by EUROCHIPS in this area. Artwork has the benefit of being understood without language barriers.

When will partner countries have the chance to discuss these issues?

There is a Child Centred Group that was formed at the first Consortium meeting in Huddersfield in January. This group will meet at each Consortium meeting to discuss children and young people's perspectives from each country and to exchange ideas and good practice. Whether possible representatives drawn from young people and children in the steering groups will be involved in these meetings, either in person, or by means of written, video or artwork based input.

How can I input my ideas?

If you are reading this, and want to be involved, or to feed in your ideas about how to involve children and young people in COPING, please email Ben Raikes at b.raikes@hud.ac.uk. Ben has responsibility for the coordinating the Child Centred Group and the child / young person centred aspects of the Project.