Reading helps connect incarcerated parents with their children on the outside.

By Alyssa Spoon, Office Technician
Community Resources Office, California Medical Facility

California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville recently hosted its first Family2Child Literacy Project event, focusing on reconnecting incarcerated parents with their children back home.

Family2Child is a project of Place4Grace, a nonprofit serving families impacted by incarceration. Through CDCR’s Innovative Grant Program, incarcerated fathers at CMF were assisted by Place4Grace staff in choosing from over 50 books to record themselves reading the perfect story to their sons and daughters. These donated books cover a broad spectrum of themes for children of all ages, including various cultural backgrounds and sensitive subjects pertaining to childhood.

All participants are then brought in one at a time to create a five- to seven-minute minute recording of them reading a story to their children. Program Director Sutina Green and a team of volunteers listen to each recording for security and safety purposes, and then the story recordings are sent home, along with the chosen book and a personalized message from the incarcerated parent. Many dads at CMF expressed their gratitude and excitement for a program that allows them to invest in the lives of their children, even from the confines of prison.

Throughout the course of the day, 22 men participated in the CMF recording sessions, as well as a behavioral and parenting class taught by Executive Director Karen McDaniel. Topics ranged from addiction, triggers to forgiveness and owning responsibility in the process of rehabilitation. While many participants come into these sessions with a tough exterior, McDaniel noted how common it is for them to become emotional throughout the program. Many participants demonstrated a strong emotional response during the reading of Daniel Beaty’s “Knock Knock,” the story of a young boy who grows up without the leadership of his incarcerated father. CMF participants noted the importance and need for interaction with their families back home, not only for the development of their children, but for their personal support and motivation for reintegration.

CMF plans to host the Family2Child program quarterly, and anticipates substantial increase in participation over time. While many of the programs offered at CMF are concerned with the health and personal growth of the incarcerated, Place4Grace has created a truly unique program especially tailored to love and support families of the incarcerated, letting them know they are never forgotten.

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More information about Place4Grace and the Family2Child Literacy Project can be found at www.theplace4grace.org/.