Percy Kennedy, Founder, and President of Voices of the Fatherless, Inc., is a man on a mission. You could say he sort of “fell” into his work with InsideOut Dad®, but there were a few key things that happened before he started running the program that impacted his work today.
In 2014 Percy led a ministry-mentoring program for boys without present fathers called SPIRIT. He took them to play golf once a month and, by getting involved in these kids' lives, found that some of the children had fathers who were incarcerated and had no way of reaching or connecting with them. He saw that what they needed was to have a relationship with their dad.
Sometime later, a prison ministry approached him about teaching a class inside of the prison to connect the men in prison to their children. Percy discovered National Fatherhood Initiative’s® InsideOut Dad® program. He saw that by teaching InsideOut Dad®, he could make a greater impact on children and fathers impacted by incarceration.
In 2016, through a sponsorship from the same church that sponsored the mentoring ministry, Percy acquired the InsideOut Dad® program and facilitator training. He began delivering the program at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, TX. Six years later, he’s still facilitating InsideOut Dad® in that facility.
Percy’s first class in 2016 comprised 16 dads who graduated from the program. By 2019 almost 80 dads were graduating from the InsideOut Dad® program each year. He even has a waiting list to get into the class! Some of the graduates are now teaching InsideOut Dad® at the same facility.
So, what has led to Percy’s success? He made the program his own.
Before starting InsideOut Dad®, Percy connected with principals of a local school district and held an Essay Contest for children grades 3rd-5th. The essay topic was "What does the word father mean to you"? After receiving the essays, he saw again that some of the children’s fathers were incarcerated.
Later, he shared these essays with dads in his InsideOut Dad® class. It made quite an impact on them. This gave way to having the incarcerated fathers write the different types of letters mentioned below, which were eventually included in Percy’s book “Voices of the Fatherless.”
Percy uses a variety of written letters as an impactful learning tool to help dads connect with their own experience with fatherlessness and to connect with children of the fatherless. Let me explain.
During the InsideOut Dad® program, Percy has dads write letters to their own children as well as other children. In these letters, dads share how the children can make good decisions and advise the children to choose a different path than the dad himself. The letters touch on education, expressing emotions, and respecting authority. All topics are connected with the InsideOut Dad® program.
There are several types of letters:
- Letters of Impact – Fatherless incarcerated men write about the impact that growing up without a father had on them.
- Letters to fatherless children - Incarcerated men give advice to fatherless children advising them against going down the same path and ending up incarcerated.
- Letters to their own children – Incarcerated dads explain to their own children how being incarcerated has impacted them.
- Letters to their "younger selves" - Incarcerated dads explain what they’ve learned that might have prevented them from going down the path that led them to incarceration before it was too late.
He also asks each dad to write a blessing to their own children. This idea came from incorporating the teaching based on Gary Smalley’s Book, "The Blessing."
Ultimately, Percy believes that having a successful program is dependent on an organization building a team of men and women who can share their personal life experiences that they had with their own fathers. This connects staff with the men who attend and, in doing so, encourages dads to engage in the organization’s InsideOut Dad®program.