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|June 16, 2008
Director of Communications
FATHERHOOD PROGRAMS HELP OFFENDERS DEVELOP
BETTER PARENTING SKILLS
Fourteen years ago, Chief Probation
Officer Thomas Mitchell noticed a common thread
among male probationers: the majority of them
did not grow up with a father in the home.
Mitchell and Deputy Commissioner
Steve Bocko created a program to teach offenders,
many who had “no clue” what it
meant to be a good father, to be positive and
attentive parents to their own sons and daughters.
“Most of the men who end
up in the program have not had good role models.
No one has ever told them what to do or how
to be good fathers,” Mitchell said. “They
have to break that cycle-break that chain and
step up to the plate.”
The 11 Fatherhood Programs across
the state have a common mission which is based
Five Principles of Fatherhood”.
The 12-week program, offered twice a year,
features guest speakers such as judges, clergy,
and social service providers. The age range
spans from young adults in their late teens
to grandfathers but may vary by court.
More than 1,600 fathers have
graduated from one of the statewide Fatherhood
Programs since the initiative was established
in 1994. As a symbolic gesture, several of
the programs scheduled graduation ceremonies
in time for Father’s Day.
In Barnstable County, Probation
Officer Robert Smith of the Barnstable District
Court has run the Fatherhood Program for the
past 11 years. A total of 177 fathers have
graduated from the program since then. The
program’s graduation was Friday.
The graduation ceremony for the
Berkshire County Fatherhood Program – which
includes Pittsfield District, Berkshire County
Juvenile, and Berkshire Probate & Family
Courts—is scheduled for July 29th. Seven
fathers are slated to graduate from the program
this year. A total of 157 fathers have participated
in the program since its inception in 1998.
The Berkshire County Fatherhood Program is
run by Probation Officer Donald Wright.
In Essex County, 18 fathers graduated
before an audience of 100 relatives and friends
on June 10th. This group was one of the largest
Fatherhood graduation classes since the program
was first offered in 1997 at the Lawrence District
Court, according to Frank Audy, a Probation
Officer in Charge, who runs the program. One
of the Fatherhood Program graduates, Jimmy
Tavares, said the program helped prepare him
for first-time fatherhood.
“It is one thing to be
a man and it is a different thing to be a father.
There were a lot of fathers with different
stories. But at the end of the day, it always
comes down to the child,” Tavares said.
More than 200 fathers graduated
from the Fatherhood Program in Essex County
since it was first established in 1997.
Hampden County’s Springfield
District Court Probation Department also has
a Fatherhood Program which is run by Assistant
Chief Probation Officer Anthony Carpenter.
About 30 fathers have graduated from the program
since Carpenter started it in 2005.
In Middlesex County, there
are two collaborative programs. One is a
program which services Cambridge District,
Middlesex Superior and Middlesex Probate & Family
courts. This program also partners with the
Union Baptist Church in Cambridge where the
weekly meetings are held. A total of 145
fathers have graduated from the program since
it was first established in 2000, according
to Cambridge District Court Assistant Chief
Probation Officer Ronald Layne. Layne runs
the program with Probation Officer Bill Gosmon.
The Fatherhood Program graduation took place
on May 13th.
The second collaborative
Fatherhood Program in Middlesex County includes
participants from Framingham District, Waltham
District, Natick District, and Newton District
courts. The South Middlesex County Fatherhood
Program received a three-year $6,000 Carlisle
Foundation grant awarded jointly to the program
and the Children’s Trust Fund. Nine
fathers graduated during a June 9th ceremony.
The Norfolk County Probate & Family
Court Probation Department’s Fatherhood
Program held its graduation at the Endicott
Estates on June 3rd. The Norfolk County Fatherhood
Program was the first Fatherhood Program established
by the Massachusetts Probation Service 14 years
ago. More than 400 fathers have graduated from
the program, according to Probation Officer
Brian Quinn, who has been running the program
for the past eight years.
In Plymouth County, 15 probationers
graduated from Brockton District Court’s
Fatherhood Program last week during a ceremony
held at Teen Challenge on Main Street in the
Crescent City. This year marks the Brockton
Fatherhood Program’s eighth year in existence.
The program’s coordinator, Probation
Officer Steve Doherty, said a total of 142
offenders have passed through the program.
In Suffolk County, there are
Fatherhood Programs at two of the eight divisions
of the Boston Municipal Courts: West Roxbury
and Dorchester. There is also a Fatherhood
Program at Chelsea District Court.
This year, the Fatherhood Program
at the Dorchester Division of BMC celebrates
its 10th year with the second largest number
of program graduates of the 11 Probation Fatherhood
Programs in the state. Since the program, run
by Assistant Chief Probation Officer VanThomas
Straughter was established in 1998, 267 fathers
have completed the program.
The BMC-West Roxbury Fatherhood
Program held its graduation this week for ten
of its participants. More than 100 fathers
have gone through the program since it has
been in place. The graduation ceremony took
place at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal
At Chelsea District Court, nine
fathers graduated from the Fatherhood Program
recently. The Chelsea Fatherhood Program was
launched two years ago, according to Chelsea
District Court Probation Officer Tom Tassinari.
The program’s graduation ceremony took
place earlier this month at ROCA, a Chelsea-based
human services agency.
Thomas Mitchell, who established
the original program with Deputy Commissioner
Steve Bocko, said he never thought the Fatherhood
Program would grow the way it has.
“I feel an immense amount
of pride. It (program) struck a chord with
people. Universally, everyone wants to be a
great parent,” Mitchell said.