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The One Resource Grayson County Detention Center Uses to Open Dads' Hearts and Minds to Group-Based Fatherhood Programs

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

How to Reach Incarcerated Fathers with Group-Based Programs

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I regularly interview staff and volunteers in organizations that use National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) programs and other resources. These interviews often provide insight into creative uses of our programs and resources that I share in this blog to help organizations become even more effective in serving dads.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Morris Basham. Morris facilitates InsideOut Dad®—NFI’s evidence-based program for incarcerated fathers—at the Grayson County Detention Center, a facility in Leitchfield, Kentucky that houses federal and state inmates.

As Morris and I talked about InsideOut Dad®, he told me he uses another NFI resource for incarcerated dads, Out of the Ashes: Where a Seed Finds Life, to enhance his delivery of the program.

Out of the AshesIf you’re not familiar with Out of the Ashes, it’s a powerful 32-minute film—a one-act play, of sorts—that generates dialogue and a healing process among incarcerated dads. Organizations can also use it with the children and loved ones (e.g. moms of dads’ children and dads’ relatives) impacted by a dad’s incarceration. It includes a Facilitated Discussion Guide with questions that help incarcerated fathers, their children, and family members explore the issues, thoughts, and feelings caused by a dad’s incarceration. (Click here and here to read two posts in this blog about this film.)

Morris uses Out of the Ashes to provide dads who express interest in joining an InsideOut Dad® group with a taste of what it’s like to participate in a group-based program and, most important, the emotionally intimate environment the program creates. Morris says that the discussion the film generates helps dads understand the commitment they must make to get the most out of the program.

Demand for InsideOut Dad® is high at the Grayson County Detention Center. Unlike running a fatherhood program for dads in a community, recruitment is rarely an issue in a corrections setting. Facilitators of InsideOut Dad® report that they often have more demand than they can handle. In many facilities, there is a process of promotion, application, and selection into the program. Dads not selected to participate end up on a waiting list and must either wait for a new group(s) to start or go through the entire process again.

Morris has a well-developed and tested selection process that he’s enhanced with Out of the Ashes. The process to select dads to participate:

  • Starts four weeks prior to the start of several InsideOut Dad® groups.
  • The facility posts in cellblocks the availability of the program.
  • The posts inform dads that they can apply to participate.
  • After a review of the applications, Morris selects 70-80 dads to participate in the program and divides them into three “orientation sessions.”

Each 1.5-hour session starts with dads watching the film. A 1-hour discussion ensues that Morris facilitates using the discussion guide. Morris says that the film generates such an in-depth and intimate discussion that he typically has to abruptly end the session. The film shows the dads what participating in InsideOut Dad® is like and the impact their incarceration has on their children.

After the orientation sessions, some dads choose to not continue in the program. This self-selection leaves Morris with dads who enter the first program session with “eyes wide open.” A bonus is the orientation session makes dads more comfortable early on in the program with being transparent and honest with themselves and other dads about who they are and their relationships with their children and children’s primary caregiver(s). 

Whether you use InsideOut Dad® or a 24/7 Dad® program in a corrections setting and have a selection process to identify dads to participate, use of Out of the Ashes as an orientation session is a fantastic idea worth exploring. You can also integrate an “Out of the Ashes Session” into one of our programs, as some other facilitators have done (e.g. between the program’s transition from a focus on the man to a focus on the father). It’s also useful as a stand-alone resource in corrections and non-corrections settings for generating discussion about the impact of incarceration on dads, children, and loved ones.

Have you considered using Out of the Ashes as an orientation session or integrating it into one of our programs?

How effectively do you use (e.g. combine) NFI’s programs and resources?

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Topics: InsideOut Dad®

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