Working with dads reentering society from prison is one of the great challenges in serving dads.
That's why a recent brief released by the Urban Institute on their evaluation of six federally-funded reentry programs is so welcome for organizations and individuals involved in promoting responsible fatherhood.
This implementation evaluation focused on describing the ways in which the federal grantees provided parenting-related programs and activities for dads to help them reunify and connect with their children. It includes excellent descriptions of the following activities the grantees used:
- Case management services.
- Ways in which they built parenting knowledge among dads, such as the curriculum-based programs they used.
- Ways in which they encouraged dad-child contact and communication.
- Ways in which they removed barriers that interfered with dads' ability to parent their children.
Those descriptions alone provide excellent insight into the broad array of components necessary for helping dads to successfully reenter the lives of their children and families.
The authors further include the following four recommendations for reentry programs:
- Leverage the opportunities present in the pre-release and post-release settings. Each setting provides advantages not present in the other for serving dads. It's critical to serve dads in both settings.
- Provide dads with several tools to help them reunify with their children. Use curriculum-based programs to build dads' knowledge and include dad-child activities. Use tools that engage the caregivers of dads' children to break down the barriers these caregivers can present.
- Help dads with financial and other basic needs. Once released, dads face a lot of pressure to meet their financial and other basic needs, such as housing and employment. Helping them meet these needs is critical to successful reunification.
- Engage correctional staff to help create dad- and family-friendly correctional settings. Get buy-in from these staff as soon as possible by communicating the importance of the program. Buy-in facilitates the implementation of components, such as visits from children and caregivers, that require support from correctional staff.
I encourage you to download the brief and read it.
I also encourage you to download Engaging Fathers for Successful Reentry, National Fatherhood Initiative's free guide that identifies eight of the most significant challenges ex-prisoners face and ways reentry programs have addressed them. (National Fatherhood Initiative created this guide as part of The Connections Project, a two-year federally-funded initiative.)
Are you aware of all the challenges facing ex-prisoners and how to effectively address them?
Is your reentry effort comprehensive enough to give dads all the tools they need to successfully reunify with their children?