A program in six eastern Tennessee counties is helping to prepare men behind bars to become better fathers for their children.
Team Dad, a project funded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and sponsored by the Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority, is equipping these men to be the parents their children need when they are released.
The program offers lessons on basic parenting skills, as well as assistance on building resumes and advice for finding legal assistance for those prisoners dealing with custody issues. Upon release, Team Dad can assist in finding employment. “We can put in a good word to the employers for the guys so they can get a chance to have an open door and start working again,” says Sam Escobar, an outreach worker for Team Dad.
Among the resources offered by Team Dad is InsideOut Dad, a curriculum produced by the National Fatherhood Initiative (NGI). InsideOut Dad seeks to reduce recidivism by connecting fathers to their families, giving them a greater incentive to stay out of prison. The curriculum has been used in over 400 facilities nationwide, and is having an impact on returns to prison. (Prison Fellowship, in collaboration with NGI, helped to develop a Christian version of the InsideOut Dad materials that is available on the NGI website.)
Over 50 men have graduated from the Team Dad program in Cocke County, and there are plans to expand the program to other jails and prisons in the area.
“It’s taught me better ways to budget my money for my kids and take care my kids,” says Cody Moon, a recent program graduate, “and is teaching me better ways to treat the mother of my children.”