The Salvation Army in Chicago, USA, is making an impact on inmates in a city jail by helping fathers build better relationships with their children and co-parents.
The Fatherhood in Action program was recently introduced to the Cook County Jail, the largest single-site jail in the US, dealing with issues related to building family relationships during and after release.
The program is completely voluntary and open to most inmates. Twice a week during an eight-week session, the men meet with their peer group and two facilitators to focus on responsible parenting, healthy relationships, financial education, and wellness.
According to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office, the program is making a difference in the lives of their inmates.
“This program is so impactful because the men know we care,” said Janet De La Torre, Communications Liaison in the Policy and Communications department. “Most of them feel nobody has taken an interest in them before.”
At one meeting, men in the group discussed milestones and road maps for their lives. They identified the times and situations that have impacted them so far. This could include vacations, birthdays, school detentions, deaths, and more. They then drew these points on their maps and shared them.
“We are looking over our past so we can learn from our experiences and identify patterns,” said Derrick White, facilitator of the Fatherhood in Action program (pictured below).
“Does anything need to be changed to make it safe for your children? You need to take your past pain and transform it – make it a stepping stone to a better future.”
The non-judgmental atmosphere allows the men to look at their lives, and how their choices affect their children and the relationship with the family. For many of them, they’re learning for the first time how to be adults and parents.
“I’m working on being patient,” said inmate Lucas Kardon, who has a five-year-old son. “When you have a little kid, you have to listen too.”
Another inmate, Darryl Paige, has three young children and he’s working on being a leader. “My kids watch me. I have to set an example for them. I have to be supportive and understanding. I don’t want them to end up here.”
The program has been so successful that Sheriff Dart has requested several more sessions.
The program has already been introduced in other facilities in the Chicago area, including the Harbor Light Center, the Adult Rehabilitation Centers, and the Pathway Forward community-based corrections program.