education.govt.nz

Connecting prison dads with their children

Issue: Volume 98, Number 9

Posted: 4 June 2019
Reference #: 1H9uev

Manawatū’s Dads & Books programme aims to maintain connections between children and their fathers in prison, while also increasing literacy.

Connecting prison dads

Manawatū’s Dads & Books programme is run by Prisoners Aid & Rehabilitation Society (PARS) volunteers and encourages fathers to write books for their children.

As well as writing a storyline, fathers illustrate the picture books, which are then printed and bound before being sent to the child.

PARS Service Manager Adie Transom says the programme was established by volunteers with a background in education to help fathers maintain contact with their children while in prison.

“It’s more than just the children, the whole family seems to benefit hugely from it,” she says. “We also use the time to build prosocial skills.”

At the end of the Dads & Books programme, fathers are videotaped reading their story, similar to the Bedtime Stories programme. The video is then sent along with the book so the child can see and hear their father reading to them.

The programme takes five weeks to complete. Adie tells the story of one young father who told volunteers how creating a book for his children helped him realise he never wanted to return to prison after his release.

“He’d just assumed up until then that would be his life, he’d be in and out of prison as a patched gang member. At his graduation at the end of the programme he said, ‘I love my gang, but I love my kids more’, so there was a really significant change there.”

Adie’s advice to teachers is to help children with a loved one in prison to stay connected.

“The children could be writing letters or creating pictures and sending them in to Dad – any of the projects that they would normally do for family settings outside of prison they can bundle up and send to the offender inside the prison as well,” she says.

“Some of them are not able to see their children because of the cost of travelling. We have families where we’ve got offenders here in Manawatū prison, but their families don’t live locally so the cost of coming down every fortnight to see them can be prohibitive. The next best way is for the kids to be creating things for them in the way that they might take stuff home to show mum and dad.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:02 am, 4 June 2019

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