“Our curriculum helps give fathers like Daniel the courage to plan a life of sobriety.”

 

Daniel is looking forward to Father’s Day this year. It won’t be about the greeting cards or a big meal — those things aren’t likely to happen — but instead about how the father of three will feel on the day dedicated to dads. Daniel has an entirely new outlook on fatherhood, and his current status as an inmate is the catalyst.

Drug use landed this father, husband and electrician in the addiction recovery unit at the Davidson County Correctional Development Center. That’s where he met Jenn Martin, a woman who changed his attitudes about parenting. Daniel is among the incarcerated men and women who have benefited from attending parent education classes offered by The Family Center. Martin is the masters-level parent educator who teaches those classes.

“I used to think fathers were supposed to be the bad cops, the disciplinarians. Now I realize that good dads are nurturing and talk about their feelings,” says Daniel, explaining just one of the things he has learned from Martin.

During the six-week parenting class, inmates learn new parenting skills and how to avoid experiences that can lead to abuse and neglect of their children. The classes have proven to be particularly valuable for those who are working on recovery while incarcerated, says Martin.

“Jail can be a dark place, but the parenting classes give inmates and their families hope for a new start when they get out,” she says. “Our curriculum helps give fathers like Daniel the courage to plan a life of sobriety.”

Now Daniel is paying it forward, using his sense of humor and questioning nature to help other inmate fathers. He has become a “thought leader,” a program graduate who helps new participants gain value from the lessons Martin teaches.

“I see some of you rolling your eyes, but this stuff works,” he told classmates about Martin’s suggested practices for creating better relationships with children. “My wife and I are trying one new idea every week.”

Last year, 545 inmates in Rutherford and Davidson Counties participated in the classes. Funding for the instruction comes from donations made to The Family Center.