Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day: "Get on the Bus" Program

The enclosed video reports on an initiative of developing healthy father-child relationships in a DC jail. Similar initiatives are occurring locally, as we read today in a
heartwarming report from the CDCR website:
“Approximately 200,000 children in California have an incarcerated parent and live with relatives or in foster care who may be unable to travel the distance to visit their father,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This event will help strengthen the bond between father and child and that’s especially important when these men are released from prison.

"Today, 17 buses filled with more than 500 children and their caregivers traveled from major cities across the state to California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo and Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad.

“Seeing these children greet their fathers is a dramatic and unforgettable picture,” said Get on the Bus Executive Director Sister Suzanne Jabro. “These children pay the high price of separation from their fathers and this is a monumental effort by the community and the state to strengthen those family bonds."

There is a small but interesting literature on fatherhood from within walls. Justin Dyer, for example, uses identity theory to argue that prison interferes with the experience of fatherhood. A healthy relationship between father and child, even while the father is incarcerated, is a proven factor in reducing recidivism. Here's a fascinating curriculum by Carl Mazza, teaching parenting skills to incarcerated fathers through a narrative technique:

The role-plays become problem-solving exercises between father and child even though, obviously, the children themselves are never present. With each weekly topic, the men are strongly encouraged to be insightful into their own past experiences and motivations. For example, in the unit concerning instilling cultural/racial pride, the men first need to examine how they really feel about bring from a specific cultural group. They are encouraged to react to the various stereotypes (both positive and negative) regarding their cultural group. They need to remember how they felt as boys and whom they held as role models. While there is always a lively discussion, the men are not forced to disclose their feelings. Disclosure occurs when individual students feel the need to do so.

And here's a helpful bibliography on children of incarcerated parents, courtesy of the Family and Corrections Network.

Happy Father's Day!

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