The format of the Fatherhood Coalition's Incarcerated Dads Group resulted from the realization that for many fathers who are separated from their children, the connection to their kids tends to fade over time. It requires more commitment to continue fathering from a distance and for all but the most determined, discouragement can set in which eventually results in doing for & thinking about their kids less and less. For this reason the program is based upon fathering actions actually performed while incarcerated rather than the usual information & support only.

 Upon entering the program, each man is given a
certificate, which lists ten 'Actions' that fathers regularly perform (said to be taken from the 'Father Operator's Manual'). The challenge is to find a way to be an active father under any circumstances. Ideally, there would be a meeting to discuss each Action but since the jail population is in such flux, each action is checked off with a rubber stamp signifying that it was witnessed by the other men and by the group facilitators who sign their  names at the bottom upon completion of the first task.

The program currently takes place at the Santa Barbara County Jail and is bi-lingual and multi-cultural. In the future, the curriculum format will be applied to a more expanded program aimed at serving any man who is currently separated from his child(ren)--"The Not-At-Home Dads Program".

The following is the list of the current ten Actions
(New actions could appear at any time; perhaps suggested by you.):

Download printable document here

     "Please help me to be worthy of their love."

1) Claim my kid(s): means to identify yourself as his/her dad. It means being their 'home base'-their reference point. Being stable, predictable, reliable-something they can count on. It also means being accessible. (It is not the same as, "I love you" or "You are a great kid.")

"I am your dad. I'll always be your dad. Your paternity is not in doubt."
"You don't have to guess what I'm like or come looking for me. I
am here for you."
"Our lives & destinies are connected."
Invite them to talk to you

2) Know my kid(s): means not leaving it up to someone else. Your relationship between you and your child has nothing to do with your relationship with anyone else. What do you know about them that no one else knows? What are their traits (as individuals)? Attempt to find out at least 3 new things about them. (What would you have wanted your father to know about you?)

"What is your favorite TV show?"
"Who is your best friend?"
"What is the best thing that ever happened to you?"
"What makes you sad?"

3) Protect them: (Protect them from what?) Teach them something that will keep them safe. Do something your father did not do. If you can't be with them, ask someone you trust to look in on them (& let you know).

4) Provide for them :

If you are broke, send them a token amount (sell something).
Present yourself for child support (if you do not live with them).
Do something to further your career ( or complete a career plan).

5) Present the world to them: (Father as Door) What did your father teach you (that is worth passing on)? What will you teach them? Attempt to tell them at least 3 things that are important - not just values  or principles, but things about the world itself (what it is like where you have been, the things you have done, the kinds of people that they might run into).

"This is what I do at my job"
"Look, it's the inside of a clock!"
"This is how you use a saw"

Further Discussion:
How many doors have you already opened?

"There is a place for you by the fire": What does that mean? Is there a place for you by the fire? Where do you belong and where do you feel like an outsider?

6) Be accountable to other men : Attend at least 6 meetings of a fatherhood support group. Admit at least one mistake. Get or give advice.

7) Learn more about fathering: Keep a journal that includes at least 6  new things you have learned.

8) Refine my methods of Discipline: Commit to the
"Best Father" Discipline Pledge.

9) Relationship with kid's mother: Change this relationship in a way that will benefit your child(ren) and make it easier to be a better dad.

Do something to earn her trust.
Be reliable.
'Testify' to her about how you feel & what you are doing to be a better father.

10) Consider my own father: List 3 ways you want to be just like him and 3 ways you want to do it differently.


Further Discussion:
What did your father teach you? How did he teach you?
Ask your dad about his father.
Ask your dad (or another father-figure) about fathering (how it's done  or what it's like).


Our motto: 'Go the Distance'

The program was written & developed by Steve Murray (Fatherhood Coalition Executive Director). He can be contacted at: