When a father is taken into custody and later incarcerated, his role in his family is drastically reduced. During his incarceration, he has few-if any-opportunities to perform his duties as a dad.
After release, he may see how mom and other caregivers filled in for him. During this transition period, dad sees the evidence of how his role has diminished. Some resilient fathers are able to recover their position and status in their families relatively quickly, but others may not fare as well.
Successful reunification can help dad begin to regain his role
When returning fathers and their spouses want reunification to be successful and want to better themselves as a family unit, Building Families Together can help. This is a great starting point to help dad strengthen his role. Our work is specially aimed at improving how couples are impacted by the incarcerated and returning parent. Through our work, we have learned how parental roles and family structures have changed over the past decades and how to support families that have been affected by incarceration.
Despite support being available, many fathers coming home still find it difficult to locate or know how to attend these programs.
In addition to us, there are other organizations in Illinois (where we operate) and in other states that help incarcerated fathers before and after their release and with family reunification. We share how to find some of these services in the list of tips below.
7 Things a Father Returning Home Needs to Know
We have compiled some tips for returning fathers as they take action to regain and strengthen their role in their families.
1. Programs for Families
Locally and nationally there are many programs for families whose lives have been disrupted by incarceration. Many services seek to help persons transition from the life behind bars to freedom. They also have the goal of reducing the risk of returning citizens re-offending. Despite support being available, many fathers coming home still find it difficult to locate these programs or know how to attend these programs. Please contact us for services available in Illinois.
2. Redefine Relationships with Children
The main challenge is to redefine the relationship between the child and father. Months or years have passed; some have learned to do without their fathers. That is why reunification requires an entire process of clarification, negotiations, adjustments and compromises. It is not unusual to find that the children may feel detached from the father. If prisons/jails have implemented parenting programs, the father coming home will understand how to cope with these inevitable acts of coldness from a child who should be delighted to have him back. If the father has not taken these classes the father may be unable to cope properly with these changes. Please reach out to Building Families Together if you or your child need help readjusting.
3. Family Support
The emotion of the father coming home is real but restrained and modest. Their children help them to assume their responsibility. The child brings a breath of fresh air; children breaks the mental image of the prison. We can see that fathers and children support each other, reassure each other and depending on the age of the children, they could also act as breadwinners as their father tries to get back into the family structure and prepares to assume his role of providing for his family. This last one is tough on most dads. However, dad look at it this way…you will see that your child is independent, trustworthy, caring, and a provider. This is a time to be proud of your child not beat yourself up for things that are out of your control.
4. Get help
Always ensure that the agencies that need to, are made aware of the end of your detention. Sharing about your past incarceration ensures that you can receive proper support and resources.
5. Enjoy Life
We encourage fathers coming home to spend time reconnecting with friends and family and with what freedom means to you. Remember to have fun and enjoy life as laughter will help to take your mind off your problems. Take care of yourself and work with your partner or your child’s caregivers to ease into your role on a timeline you both agree on. Don’t feel pressured to get back to your family role before you are ready.
6. Dad…Take Care of Yourself
Most importantly, we remind dads to take care of their own needs:
- If you have the means, talk to a therapist about your problems and concerns, then listen to their advice.
- Develop a healthy pattern in your life to keep your morale and energy level up.
- Adopt an exercise program, eat healthy meals and set a regular sleep schedule. This will help you maintain your strength and focus during a challenging time.
7. Spend quality time with your family
Providing you is the most important thing you can give them at this time. Money will come but you are the one they have been without. So, provide your family with you first and everything else will come.
Father realizing his diminished role and then taking the steps to strengthen his role is a complicated issue and we hope these tips are helpful!