Hopeful guardians of children with fathers incarcerated concluded a workshop in West Philadelphia recently to prepare for a program that would allow children to meet with their fathers confined at Graterford prison.
The Fathers and Children Together (F.A.C.T.) program was created by members of the United Community Action Network (U-CAN).
The group consists of men confined at Graterford prison and was crafted to eradicate the culture of street crime. Those selected to participate in the program are permitted close, supervised visits with their children in an effort to re-establish a positive relationship with their children in an effort to end what’s called the “cradle to prison pipeline.”
As part of the preparations for the visits, which will begin in June, mothers, grandmothers and guardians of children, attended workshops at Walnut Park Plaza and were counseled by Dr. Umar Johnson, a certified school psychologist and child therapist.
Similar preparations were conducted on the inside of Graterford prison where the men of U-CAN facilitated workshops and orientation groups.
“Today we are rapping up a series of sessions with mothers of children who have fathers serving time in Graterford state correctional facility,” said State Rep. Ronald G. Waters of West Philadelphia who serves as U-CAN’s liaison and actively supports the program.
“We have concluded that his could make a difference in the lives of the people who participate.”
After the session, excited children played while their mothers talked with one another and members of Waters’ staff.
According to Waters, the men selected for participation in the program will be thoroughly screened by both the prison’s administration in addition to the members of U-CAN who created and coordinates the program.
“We are hoping that we could break the cycle in which a child of incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to end up in prison themselves, so this is a chance to break the cycle,” said Waters.
Waters noted such visits would provide fathers with another important opportunity. That would be the opportunity to apologize to their children for not being in the home to help raise them.
“It also gives them an opportunity to teach their children not to make the same mistakes they have made and therefore to stop the vicious cycle of mass incarceration,” said Waters.
Louise Savage, whose son, Hanif, is incarcerated at Graterford, attended the workshop with her grandson and looks forward to the time when he can meet with his father one-on-one beginning in June.
“I’m happy for the program and hop it continues,” said Savage. “It gives children an opportunity to visit their parents who are incarcerated and there are more kids who need to visit their incarcerated parents.”
Melody Cooper, also a grandmother whose son is confined at Graterford, shared similar sentiments.
“The program means, to me, a reconnection with the parent and the child and I’m glad to be able to have my granddaughter and my son participate in this program,” said Cooper, who said her grand daughter lives in Maryland and she lives in Delaware. “With this program I know that it [the visits] will be more intense for them to spend time together because it’s not just going to be a regular visit but a workshop of rebuilding for my granddaughter and her father as well as all the fathers and their children [who participate].”
For more information about the program, call the office of State Rep. Waters at (215) 748-6712.