Ann Adalist-Estrin, director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated at Rutgers University–Camden, recently returned from a weeklong trip in South America as part of a regional initiative to highlight the needs of children and families of the incarcerated in Latin America and the Caribbean. Adalist-Estrin was invited by Church World Service (CSW) Latin America and its Caribbean office in Buenos Aires, and Gurises Unidos, a children’s rights non-governmental organization in Uruguay, as part of an international leadership exchange project supported by the United States Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Adalist-Estrin highlighted her visit to Montevideo by giving a presentation at the launch of the publication Invisible No More, a study of children of incarcerated parents in Latin America and the Caribbean conducted by Gurises Unidos and CWS Latin America.
She was joined by Eduardo Bonomi, minister of the Interior of Uruguay; Jorge Ferrando, director of the Uruguayan Institute for Adolescents and Children, the country’s national child welfare organization; Uruguay Supreme Court Judge Ricardo Perez Manrique; U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay Julissa Reynoso; Maria Noel Rodriguez of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; Gonzalo Salles, director of Gurises Unidos; and Martin Coria, coordinator of CWS Latin America. Each presenter shared perspectives on the issue of children of the incarcerated and applauded the new report, which is a new area of focus for the 25-year-old children’s rights organization.
Adalist Estrin’s presentation reinforced the Invisible No More findings and shared ideas for promising practices in the UnitedStates that could be considered, as Uruguay moves forward in forging alliances and designing interventions to respond to this population of children and families.
Her trip continued with visits to both a men’s and women’s prison, a kindergarten pre-school program specifically serving children of incarcerated mothers, and U.S. embassies in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. While in Buenos Aires, she participated in an all-day dialogue with representatives from organizations and universities in the region that are interested in this issue and serve this population.
“We have a head start of nearly four decades of gathering information and developing policies and practices for children of the incarcerated, but our colleagues in Uruguay and Argentina covered that ground in two short years,” says Adalist-Estrin. “Many of our ideas for programs such as parenting classes in prisons, and afterschool- and school-based support groups specifically focused on these kids and families, are new to them. However, they have a cultural context of assuming family strengths and valuing family relationships that was really evident everywhere I went. We can learn much from them as this exchange continues.”
Plans are in the works for representatives from Gurises Unidos to visit Adalist-Estrin on the Rutgers–Camden campus this fall as part of the exchange project.
With roots dating back 30 years, the NRCCFI — the oldest organization of its kind in the United States — made a new home at Rutgers University–Camden in October. Rutgers–Camden supports the organization in its mission to raise public awareness of issues concerning children and families of the incarcerated, primarily through its internationally renowned website, fcnetwork.org, now also accessible at nrccfi.camden.rutgers.edu.