Research has repeatedly shown that the absence of a father has an adverse affect on a child’s development. Nina Chen, a University of Missouri child development specialist, wrote, “Research findings show that children who experienced father absence were likely to have behavior problems and didn’t do well in school.”
Of course, a father’s impact is most beneficial when he is interacting face-to-face with his children. But for fathers who cannot be in the home due to incarceration, their presence can still be felt through the “Fathers Bridging the Miles” program, which was featured in Monday’s Tribune.
Hawaiian prisoners at the Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy read books aloud, their voices recorded onto CDs which are sent to their children along with a copy of the book. The program promotes literacy among children and inmates, and maintains a bond between parent and child.
As reported by Lindsey Gemme of the Casa Grande Dispatch, inmates are carefully screened before they are allowed to take part, and the program includes parenting classes and counseling.
While incarceration is about punishment, it also benefits our society when it includes rehabilitation. This program is a means to that end, and it helps to maintain and even strengthen a father’s commitment to his children.
One drawback: The program is bankrolled by a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We would prefer that such an effort be supported privately, possibly by book publishers or charitable groups.