“Nothing about us without us.”

Luciano Cadoni | November 14, 2018

A child speaks during the recent General Assembly of NNAPES, the regional platform of organizations working to lift up the voices of children with incarcerated parents and their families.

“Nothing about us without us.”

I’ve heard that phrase a lot recently from people who I respect and value. And it’s not that I didn’t know the phrase before, but hearing it so much pushed me to stop and reflect on how our CWS team lives and works by it.

So I reflected. After doing a little introspection and evaluation, I feel that we are doing quite alright.


Since we started working to lift up the voices of children with incarcerated parents, we have made a strong effort to amplify these voices of people who have been personally impacted. In this case, it’s the children themselves who can speak to the trauma that comes with the arrest and detention of a parent. It’s also the adults in their lives who have been left to care for these children while they scramble to make up for lost income, face their own trauma and otherwise pick up the pieces.

We did this intentionally. It wasn’t just so we would feel good about ourselves, or even just as a way to create awareness. We did it because we wanted and needed to learn about the issue from THEM. Their voices need to be heard – we’re just helping them get to the microphone.

We produced a 30-minute documentary in Argentina in 2016 spotlighting this issue and featuring the voices of program participants. We have interviewed children and caregivers in other countries, too. When we participated in a hearing of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, our partners and our team decided to open with the words of Facundo, a child with an incarcerated parent from Uruguay. When the members of the regional platform on the issue meet, we make sure children participate and have the chance to be heard.

Last month, we invited a formerly-incarcerated mother and activist to participate at the Regional Consultation of the UN Global Study on Children of Parents Deprived of Liberty that took place in Uruguay. She was the only personally-impacted person present at the consultation, and we were so proud to make it happen.

For the last three years, we’ve been supporting and strengthening the work of Argentina’s Prisoners’ Relatives Association, known as ACIFAD. We’ve helped its leaders become important voices that need to be heard when we talk about helping children with incarcerated parents in the region. It seems like the organizers of the biggest TEDx event worldwide, TEDxRioDeLaPlata, agreed. They invited Andrea Casamento from ACIFAD to speak in November 2017.

Time after time, we’ve seen the impact of their words. Their stories, their emotion and their tears are powerful. All of this confirms one thing: we are extremely proud of what we’ve done, and we are extremely committed to continuing this work.

We cannot find real solutions to the problems that our most vulnerable neighbors face if we don’t sit at the table with them and let them teach us how to help them.

Welcome to the CWS table. We’re glad you’re here.

Luciano Cadoni is the Program Officer for the Protection of the Rights of the Child with the CWS Latin America and the Caribbean team.