Purpose & Background
When a man is incarcerated in America, a set of physical, emotional and communication barriers automatically arise between him and his family. A significant percentage of the 2.2 million men currently locked up in America were living with their children at the moment of their arrest. Millions of children are left behind when their dads go to jail.
Along with society’s need to protect its citizens and to prosecute crime, it must also acknowledge the risk of having the children of inmates growing up in a fatherless environment. Fathers convey love, identity, values, skills, character, faith, stability and wealth to their children. Professional studies indicate that when children fail to receive these essential needs, they fall prey more easily to inappropriate, self-destructive or criminal influences. The research is clear: these youth face significant risk of poverty, criminal activity, health problems and emotional deprivation. They seek identity in gangs and premature sexual activity. National security can be impacted as studies indicate that fatherless youth are easily radicalized. The emotional, financial and social cost of father-absence is enormous.
Ninety-five percent of incarcerated men will eventually leave the corrections system and re-enter civic life as Returning Citizens. Fortunately, having recognized the failures of their previous decisions, we find many fathers who sincerely want to connect with their children. However, these men face three significant barriers in doing so:
- Emotional – often there is no longer a romantic attachment to the mother(s) of their children. In fact, broken promises seem to characterize these relationships. A spirit of disagreement, anger and bitterness often prevents cooperation between the parents.
- Financial -- Employers are often reluctant to consider hiring men with records. Compounding the issue, many Returning Fathers have limited education or employable skills.
- Governmental – various agencies require the repayment of social debt (e.g., Child Support, Court fines and restitutions, T.A.N.F. funds), even removing or restricting the man’s driver’s license which creates additional emotional pressure
These structural barriers contribute to a seemingly intractable dilemma as the cycle of crime, poverty and social dysfunction haunts our nation, especially in the inner cities. After studying these issues for two years, the Family Restoration Network (FRN) sincerely believes it “cracked the code” on the source and the solution. Government agency leaders have repeatedly complimented us for innovation, thoroughness of planning and diligent execution. By limiting our focus to fathers of young children, and assigning Fatherhood Coaches to work with these fathers before and after their release from incarceration, we mitigate the risk of recidivism.
Our Faith-Based Motivation
The FRN is a faith-based group, headquartered in Richmond Virginia, guided by a Biblical verse found in the fourth chapter of the book of Malachi, "I will send the spirit of Elijah, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers...” Since research confirms that father-absence from the home has a devastating effect on children and society, this verse motivates us to find strategic and operational solutions to father (re)engagement, especially focusing on those men returning from incarceration. The FRN is a blend of the best features of ministry (love/family reintegration/ reconciliation) and business (results/efficiency/accountability). While maintaining rigorous standards, we have designed the Network for portability to facilitate implementation across the United States.
We begin by finding those dads behind bars, due to be released within 12 months, having no “barrier crimes” on their record and who wanted to reintegrate with their minor children. We use a rigorous Passport Selection Process, including an Intake Interview, to select the fathers who fit our criteria. The FRN locates and fuses a consortium of Social Partners, including churches, businesses, non-profits and government agencies in any jurisdiction with a local jail or prison. The Network trains local Restoration Coaches, Employer Relations Specialists and Assessment Proctors whose professional skills serve to accelerate a Returning Father’s successful re-entry and re-integration. We then create an atmosphere conducive to family strengthening and relational healing combining these certified Coaches and evidence-based training methodologies. In addition, where allowed, we install a Video Visitation system in the local jail/prison to facilitate communication between the offender and others.