There are 2.7 million children with an incarcerated parent in the United States. Most of those missing parents are fathers, and in their absence, many children struggle.
But spending time with Dad can help to fill the gap for a child. Even if it’s just for a day.
Prison Fellowship®’s “Day with Dad” at the Carol Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas, is far more than a brief visit in a sterile visitation room. It’s a special annual event for prisoner dads and their families. At this year’s Day with Dad on May 5, Prison Fellowship and its partners transformed the prison yard with music, bounce houses, face painting, tug of war, basketball, and more, for nearly 100 prisoners and their families. Academy Program Director Darryl Brooks hailed the occasion as “over the top—the best ‘Day with Dad’ we’ve had since I’ve been around.”
Darryl has been familiar with Prison Fellowship for 16 years. A formerly incarcerated father himself, he knows how powerful it is when loved ones come in for a visit on your side of the razor wire.
A FAMILY OF SUPPORTERS
Many visitors came to show support in May, from 39 Prison Fellowship volunteers and several staff to the Houston-based Christian radio station KSBJ. KSBJ had a special tent where families could request prayer. One church donated more than a dozen briskets for lunch. With overwhelming participation from all those involved, the event blessed everyone present: not only prisoners and their kids, but prison staff as well, Darryl said.
“[The] weatherman said it was supposed to be 60-percent chance of rain, but I prayed,” said one incarcerated dad. The rain held off. “I’m sure the rest of my brothers prayed … I just thank God.”
Across the prison yard, you’d hear, “Tag, you’re it!” as teens and little ones tried to outrun each other. You’d see a young girl clutching a snow cone in her right hand and Dad’s hand in her left. You’d see dozens of fathers who had waited so long for this one day.
Another prisoner dad, Chuko, put his arm around his daughter and kissed her forehead. “It just shows me how much she means to me, and I love her,” he said with a proud smile. “I’m ready to get out there and be a great dad to her.”
“It’s a good thing, just to be able to spend some time with my loved ones,” said Jesse, whose stepson came to visit.
Many incarcerated fathers echo that sentiment. One put it this way: “The great thing is, when I go home in six months to be with my kids, every day is ‘Day with Dad.’”