Since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world (Population Reference Bureau). In South Dakota as of July 2016, that meant 3,766 adults behind bars (South Dakota Department of Corrections). Many of them, parents. Nationally, there are over 120,000 incarcerated mothers and 1.1 million incarcerated fathers of children ages 0-17.
Imagine seeing your mother or father handcuffed in front of you, like 67% of youth with incarcerated parents have. International human rights advocates have called parental incarceration “the greatest threat to a child’s well-being in the United States." Research says that though many assume the removal of a criminal parent will improve the situation of child, parental incarceration more often intensifies the challenges that children face (The Osborne Association).
Seeing these alarming statistics, Lutheran Social Services of SD began Fatherhood & Re-entry Services, a program geared towards mothers and fathers that are re-entering society from prison or jail. The goal of the program is to get parents back into a place where they are able to be contributing members of society and provide for their families.
The Work Training Component of the program, which assists these mothers and fathers with finding stable and secure employment, is funded by United Way.
“Our program assists the participants with overcoming barriers to finding a job,” explains Jay Marchand, Project Supervisor for Fatherhood & Re-Entry Services. “Barriers such as: lack of transportation to get to interviews, lacking appropriate ID’s and credentials, needing work or interview clothes, building a resume and identifying work that fits their skills and abilities.”
Ninety-five percent of clients that complete the program find employment; 80% during the two weeks they are working in the program.
“These working parents are able to provide more for their families,” says Marchand. “Steady employment removes some stressors from their lives. It also helps remove some chance of these mothers and fathers returning back to prison or jail; therefore creating more stability in the family unit.”
Greg, a graduate of the program, says Fatherhood & Re-entry Services has helped to turn his life around.
“I’ve obtained full time employment, I have a relationship with my daughter. I also have my own apartment, a car, and bank accounts. [This program] was the key to many, if not all, of my accomplishments,” Greg shared.
After completing the program, Greg highly recommends it.
“This program is what’s needed to help fathers get back into a healthy, functional life outside of the confinements of incarceration.”
To learn more about 2017 Funded Programs, visit seuw.org.