Photo courtesy of Prison Fellowship.
With the holidays coming at “warp speed,” the idea of family gatherings, gifts, shopping, etc. can be overwhelming and stressful—even without a pandemic.
For families impacted by incarceration it can be an even more difficult time of isolation, anguish, and sometimes hopelessness. Many families have barriers to connecting with an incarcerated parent such as distance, transportation, finances, health, etc. So, it’s easy for the holidays to only illuminate the pain of separation even further.
While many of NFI’s partners are working with incarcerated fathers with evidence-based programs such as InsideOut Dad® and 24/7 Dad®, research shows that for this population, connection through child visits, in particular, is an effective tactic to connect dad to his family, and in turn reduce recidivism.
Many of our partners use other creative activities and events to help dads to connect from the ‘inside’ to their outside child relationships. Some allow dads earn the ability to record themselves reading a book to their child. Some also earn the ability to do virtual visits. Some organizations have created a partnership with the inmate’s child’s school so that dads can attend virtual Parent-Teacher conferences allowing dads to be a part of the child’s educational plan and updates. Other organizations offer things like Daddy and Daughter Dances and other family-involving events. You can read about some of these programs in this string of blogs from our Father Factor posts.
One special program by long-time NFI partner Prison Fellowship (PF) offers restorative, in-prison programs to corrections facilities across the country. Along with fatherhood program InsideOut Dad® and other parenting programs, they help with a unique connection at the holidays for families impacted by incarceration. Every year, PF’s Angel Tree Christmas™ connects children and their incarcerated mom or dad on Christmas through a gift. Angel Tree Christmas™ equips churches and community organizations to serve incarcerated parents by providing a pathway for strengthening and restoring their relationships with their children and families. Fathers and mothers apply for the program and select a gift specifically for their child. Mobilized churches and community organizations shop, select, wrap, and deliver the gifts on the parent’s behalf with a message of love. Churches meet the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of prisoner’s families through year-round ministries such as camping, sports camps, and enfolding Angel Tree families into church life. The impact on the fathers is also noteworthy, as seen HERE in this interview with incarcerated dads in the Angel Tree program.
In closing, did you notice what each of the above examples have in common? Connection.
Connecting incarcerated children and parents in tangible ways. This, along with providing incarcerated fathers with evidence-based programs to help them build life changing skills and knowledge can only work enhance positive outcomes. More importantly, they bring hope to families, and break the cycles of incarceration.
NFI offers several resources for incarcerated fathers:
- Resources from NFI for Corrections & Reentry
- The Power of Fatherhood Education in Corrections & Reentry
- 15 Tips to Help Incarcerated Dad plan for child visits
- Tip Sheet for Incarcerated Parents Planning for a Visit from Your Child
Learn about similar connection organizations and ministries via the links below:
- Angel Tree Camp
- Angel Tree Sports Camps
- Girl Scouts Beyond Bars
- Awana Lifeline
- One Day with God
- Children of Inmates