First Inmates Graduate from Starke County Jail Nurturing Fathers Class

The program goal is stated on the white board in the jail’s group meeting room.

The Starke County Jail staff is utilizing the extra space at the new jail to offer a variety of programs to help inmates better themselves. Yesterday seven men graduated from the first Nurturing Fathers program. It was put on by caseworker Jerome Kelly from Valparaiso-based Family Focus, Inc.

He says a nurturing father is a man who actively provides guidance, support and love to enhance the development and growth of your children and adds the program aims to help participants develop better parenting skills.

First they learned to relate to what Kelly calls “the little boy within.” He says it’s the child inside every man who was shaped by his experiences as a youngster.

“My goal is to be able to help your recognize, not give you all the answers,” Kelly told the graduates. “That’s not what this program is really designed to do. It’s not to give you all the answers, but to help point you in the right direction so you can visualize what’s right for your household. We have different cultures, we have different styles of parenting, but overall a nurturing father, it covers all cultures and all races, and it benefits everybody.”

Kelly says making right choices like staying sober can be challenging, but it’s the right thing to do for both yourself and your family. He says children are products of their environments.

“If you don’t want your daughter to get into an abusive relationship, then their father, who is the pillar of their life, shouldn’t be an abuser. If you don’t want your son to be putting his hands on another woman, then you are the first role model for your sons to not do that.”

Kelly adds the skills the men have learned over the past few months need to be practiced regularly in order to become permanent habits. He encourages them to use their new communication skills and thought processes in their interactions with other inmates so they can prepare for their eventual release.