Family & Corrections Network

     

Fathers Behind Bars and on the Street

Overview Proceedings    Agenda and Bio Resources

 

Fit 2B FATHERS

by Joe Maiorano

One of the most significant predictors of whether a child will acquire a criminal record is whether they have a parent with a record (Hagell & Newburn, 1996).

Past studies have reported that every incarcerated adult leaves behind approximately two children (Prisoners as Parents: Building Skills on the Inside, 1993). This means that during the year 2000 more than 4 million children in the United States will have a parent who is incarcerated.

Incarcerated adult males are at-risk for recidivating following their release (Sam Houston University, 1994).

Scholars have found that improving parenting skills of the inmates may be beneficial for the inmate, his or her family and children, as well as society (Reinhart, 1991).

These research findings prompted the author to develop Fit 2-B FATHERS (F2-BF). F2-BF is a parenting-skills education program for incarcerated adult males. F2-BF was originally developed to fulfill a graduate degree requirement in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at The Ohio State University.

The title was selected because the program enables participants to become physically, practically, and socially fit to meet the demands of fathering. The program goals are to reduce the recidivism rate of participants and reduce the risk of their children becoming incarcerated.

Class Agenda

        Physically Fit: Each class begins with a 5-minute time for light stretching and calisthenics.

        Practically Fit: The next 55 minutes of class time are spent exploring parenting skills, review, and evaluation.

        Socially Fit: Because children cannot participate, it is believed that as participants learn about children and ways to respectfully relate to each other, they will appropriately relate with their children.

Curriculum

F2-BF is a 13-session educational program; sessions are once per week for 1 hour. Unless a participant has a domestic charge against him, participation is voluntary.

The curriculum sequence was modeled after the author's own development as a human development and family sciences major. First, the program addresses ways to be a healthy individual and parent. Then the focus turns to addressing appropriate ways for fathers to help their children grow and develop.

        Week 1: Living a healthy and proactive lifestyle through wellness and personal balance.

        Week 2: Anger management.

        Week 3: Child development.

        Week 4: Child health and wellness.

        Week 5: The importance of play and dad's role as play partner.

        Weeks 6 -7: Communication Skills.

        Week 8: The legal issues of paternity and custody.

        Weeks 9 -10: Guidance and discipline strategies.

        Week 11: Video, Fathers Matter.

        Week 12: Promoting children's literacy and school success.

        Week 13: Graduation Celebration.

To qualify for "graduate" status, participants voted that a participant must attend a minimum of 10 classes. All participants may attend the celebration; however, only graduates will receive a certificate, a T-shirt, and the opportunity to invite family members to the celebration.

The correction center provides a decorated cake and other refreshments for the celebrations. They also pay for the screen-printed T-shirts.

The correction center, where F2-BF is offered,  places high value on F2-BF. Extension's presence helps to fulfill the center's goal of community involvement with the inmates.

The graduation celebration allows inmates' family members to see the correction center in a positive light. The correction center's deputy director commented on this by saying, "We can't even get [family members] to return phone calls and you [Maiorano] get them here for this [the graduation]!"

 

Evaluation

In order to measure any changes in attitudes about self and parenting, and knowledge of parenting skills, participants who attend week 1 and week 12 are given a pretest and posttest. This presents two problems. First, each participant who completes a pretest may not complete a posttest. Second, participants who may complete the pretest and posttest may have not attended every class.

To measure what was learned during each class, participants are asked to write an evaluation on a 3x5" card. Participants record a number 1 if they learned nothing, a number 2 if they learned something new, and a number 3 if they already knew the information. If they recorded a number 2, they are asked write how they plan to use this new information.

Thus far, after completing five cycles of F2-BF, 71 participants have earned certificates and t-shirts. Participants place a high value on these nominal awards.

One participant said, "I need my shirt to wear to my custody hearing." Another was quoted, "I won't wear my shirt until I am released because I want my people to see what I accomplished." "That certificate will look good for the judge when he looks at my records," was the feeling of another participant.

On Father's Day, 1999, a local newspaper covered a Fit 2-B FATHERS graduation. A partici-pant, Michael, had this to say, "I feel like I accomplished something with Fit 2-B FATHERS, I started gaining more confidence in being a father" (Kiaski, 1999).

In the same article Eugene Gallo, Executive Director of the correction center offered this, "The most powerful thing about [Fit 2-B FATHERS] is that it's voluntary and that shows there is a commitment. The residents have identified it's something they're interested in and it's something they want to take part in" (Kiaski, 1999).

John Goosman, Deputy Director of the EOCC said, "[The graduation ceremony] was real powerful, because the children and families were there to see [participants] get recognition and it kind of cemented the idea that they were going to carry these values out and use them when they go home" (Kiaski, 1999).

The guest speaker for this graduation was Robert Hughes, Missouri Extension Director of FCS and former OSU Family Life State Specialist. He had this to say about F2-BF, "This is clearly the most important work [Ohio State University Extension] could be doing in Jefferson County. We really need to be working with fathers who need to develop their skills and are interested in improving their lives. [Maiorano] has come in and found young men eager to do this and eager to succeed and be good parents" (Kiaski, 1999).

Summary

Incarcerated adult males are at-risk for recidivating following their release and the children of these men are at-risk for acquiring a criminal record. Fit 2-B FATHERS, a parenting-education program, teaches participants how to be more successful with their children and families.

This is one way to help them and their children succeed following their release.

References

   Hagell, A., & Newburn, T. (1996). Family and social contexts of adolescent re-offenders. Journal of Adolescence, 19 , 5-18.

   Kiaski, J. (1999). Fit 2-B FATHERS: voluntary program aims to make dads become better parents. Steubenville Herald Star. June 20. (pp. E-1, E-4).

Prisoners as parents: building skills on the inside. (1993) . (Report No. 90-CA-1398) . University of Southern Maine, Portland. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 360 564).

   Reinhart, M. L. (1991). Improving parenting skills of incarcerated males in a community correctional center. (Ed. D. practicum report No. 043) . Nova University . (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 332 037).

   Sam Houston University. (1994). Prison education research project: Final report. Information Analysis No. 070). Criminal Justice Center: Texas State Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville. Windham School System. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 395 209).

Contact: Joseph J. Maiorano, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ohio State University Extension, Jefferson and Harrison Counties,135 Main St. Wintersville OH 43953, 800/628.7460