As we celebrate fathers this month, it’s important to reflect on an important community issue facing families across the country – the erosion of the role of the father in the family unit. Some of the issues our communities are seeing with fathering today stem from fathers in past generations not fulfilling their roles and serving as role models for their sons, as well as a deterioration of traditional family values. Several programs in Talbot County are positively impacting this issue through the Responsible Father’s Program at the Talbot County Department of Social Services.
Corey Pack, who has been a facilitator in the Responsible Father’s Program since 2004 when he was overseeing programs in Dorchester County, has seen incredible strides in helping fathers grow and improve their relationships with their families. Two programs that are a part of the Responsible Father’s Program in Talbot County are the “Inside Out Dad” program for inmates in the Talbot County Department of Corrections and the “24/7 Dad Program” for fathers who have re-entered the community after incarceration or are members of the community who want to improve their fathering skills. The program is supported by the Talbot County Department of Social Services Young Father’s Program, funded by the Child Support Administration, and held at the YMCA of the Chesapeake in Easton.
Corey comments, “Men become fathers but can have difficulty in nurturing their children into healthy adults. They need a road map to learn how to be responsible fathers. This takes time and is evolutionary.”
The “Inside Out Dad” curriculum in the Talbot County Department of Corrections is aimed at equipping incarcerated fathers with the tools to become effective dads. According to Corey, the curriculum uses 12 modules to prepare dads for returning to their children’s lives after incarceration. The modules include such activities as developing a fathering plan, setting goals for raising their children, getting to know their children better, and learning how to communicate better with the guardian (gatekeeper) of the children. The program is evidence-based and has shown to have a recidivism rate of 33 percent, which is below the national recidivism rate of 44 percent.
“We stress to these fathers that parenting is for a limited time and that there is a small window to deposit guidance in their children’s lives. I like this program because it works,” he states.
Mike Hulliger, who participated in the Inside Out Dad Program while in the Department of Corrections is now part of a community group called the “24/7 Dad Program.” This weekly program is available to community members and compliments the Inside Out Dad Program.
Mike comments, “These programs have helped me realize how important it is to be there for my children, ages 10 and 14, and how to be a better person. I was ready to hear the information in the program and I was ready to be sober. It made me realize how much time I had missed.”
“I also learned about considering other’s feelings and how important it is to be in contact with my children’s mother and nurture that relationship. I am working on getting myself together now before I can be there for my children,” Mike adds.
Mike was also helped by Nicole Cousler, Program Coordinator for the Young Father’s Program/Non-Custodial Employment Program (NPEP). This program is multi-dimensional, helping dads to remove barriers in their lives while providing them with employment readiness and employment search through the NPEP Program. The focus of the NPEP Program is for parents to become gainfully employed to be financially independent, support their children, and become good role models for the future generation.
Specifically, Nicole, while working remotely during COVID-19, helped Mike get a bike so he could get to his job. She was also able to buy work clothes for two fathers who found employment in the past few months, while also helping with a car repair for another father who was working on finding employment.
Dawn Coleman, Assistant Director of Child Support at the Talbot County Department of Social Services, remarks, “Connecting our fathers to community resources is very important. Corey is trying to figure out how our community resources can support our fathers when they are released from jail.”
Recently, Corey worked with the Neighborhood Service Center’s Rapid Re-Housing Program to assist fathers with finding affordable housing and has collaborated with Talbot Mentors to show dads the importance of mentorship and Mid-Shore Mediation to help fathers connect with the mothers of their children.
“While these men still continue to struggle, they are determined that their future will not include a return to the bad decisions that had them returning to jail in the past,” concludes Dawn.
For further information about the Talbot County Child Support Program or Young Father’s/Non-Custodial Parent Employment Program, contact Dawn Coleman, Assistant Director of Child Support at the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-770-4727. For information about the 24/7 Dad Program, contact Corey Pack at 410-829-5561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.