Rusty is a friend of ours who has a passion for helping prison inmates. He recognized the overwhelming trend of fatherlessness among inmate fathers and took simple action to try to help. Some time ago, he began printing off copies of our weekly fathering e-mails and mailing them to prisoners he knew, knowing that it would have a ripple effect since reading material is often passed from inmate to inmate until the paper falls apart.
Just a few weeks ago, Rusty received a letter from an inmate named Bobby who had no father and who has spent more than 15 years in prison, as have most of his brothers. Through Rusty, Bobby has received three or four of our e-mails. Here is part of Bobby’s response:
There are many younger men, and men my age as well, who have responded back to me [about] how ignorant they were about fathering their children, and never thinking how important it is to be there for our children as they grow up. I guess the majority of us just thought that a roof over the children’s heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs was what it took to raise our children.
As Bobby’s message shows, we cannot overestimate the value of support received from other dads along the fathering journey. At the National Center, some of our most effective programs involve support and accountability between real life fathers—and that certainly extends way beyond prison walls.
Dad, could you use some encouragement from another dad in your fathering? Or are you an encourager? If you have found something useful to your fathering journey—a resource, a skill, a truth—pass it along. Pay it forward, as the saying goes. Then follow up with genuine interest and a few questions to those dads to see how they’re doing with their children.
And to really make a difference, join or start a small group of dads. Accountability groups provide powerful learning environments, promote long-term retention, and support behavior change. What individuals do in a group today, they are able to do alone tomorrow!