|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
||For More Information, Contact:
||Coria Holland, Director of Communications
||617-727-5300, ext. 258
than 1,600 Offenders Have Become Better Fathers
Thanks to Probation's Fatherhood Program
Shawn Suarez Sr., a 32-year-old father of
a pre-teen son, never knew his father. Suarez, however,
wanted to make sure that his son grew up knowing him.
After being released from prison, he fought
for and gained custody of his child. Suarez, who was later
placed on probation for subsequent charges, was ordered
to attend Probation's 12-week Fatherhood Program
at Springfield District Court.
Suarez said he found something at the program
that he had not found in any of the many programs he was
ordered to attend by the courts or while in prison.
"This program was not like any of
the AA's or NA's or like anything I have ever
attended. In this program, I felt like I could be myself,
like I don't have to tell them what they want to
hear," Suarez said. "The biggest thing that
I learned is how important it is to my son for me to be
in his life. You mostly hear about how important mothers
Suarez is one of more than 100 probationers
across the state who have graduated from one of Probation's
12 Fatherhood Programs over the past year. Chief Probation
Officer Thomas Mitchell and Deputy Commissioner Steve Bocko
created the Fatherhood Program in 1994 when Mitchell noticed
that many of the men who came before the court had one
"An overwhelming majority had little
or no contact with their own fathers," Mitchell said.
Now, there are Fatherhood Programs in just
about every county in the state. In the past 13 years,
an estimated 1,662 offenders across the
state have completed the program, each required to learn
the "Five Principles of Fatherhood" for which
the program is based. (See
The Fatherhood Program is offered twice a year, 12 weeks
each session. The program features guest speakers such
as judges, clergy and social service providers. During
each session, there is also time set aside for the fathers
to discuss parenting issues.
In Barnstable County,
Barnstable District Court Probation Officer Robert Smith
has been running the Fatherhood Program for the past 10
years. A total of 166 fathers have graduated from the program
since then. The program held its graduation ceremony and
dinner this weekend where Majority Leader, State Representative
John Rogers served as guest speaker.
Pittsfield District, Berkshire Juvenile,
and Berkshire Probate & Family probation departments ---
all in Berkshire County – each
offer Fatherhood Programs for offenders.
Jahart Moore, a 29-year-old
father, said the Fatherhood Program at Pittsfield District
Court gave him and other fathers a forum to discuss parenting
issues and the other challenges of life.
Moore, a single father who is
in the process of getting full custody of his daughter,
said the program taught him patience as he worked through
his child's "attachment issues."
"Every week, I got to
talk to the other fathers and talk about what they were
going through and what I am going through. We got to vent," Moore
said. "I was court-ordered to attend and I am glad
because I probably would not have known about it (program)
otherwise. Now, I would go voluntarily. By hearing other
fathers' experiences and talking about mine, it really
Pittsfield District Court Probation
Officer Donald Wright said the program was started in 1998
and has had more than 150 fathers graduate.
In Essex County, six offenders
recently graduated from the Essex County Community Corrections
Center's Fatherhood Program. The program, run by
Probation Officer in Charge Frank Audy, was established
in 1997. A total of 200 offenders have
completed the program.
Springfield District Court,
located in Hampden County, has
guided 20 fathers through its Fatherhood
Program which was established in 2005.
Anthony Carpenter, Springfield
District Court Assistant Chief Probation Officer, said "I
have found that the men in the program really want to have
a positive role in their children's lives. The Fatherhood
Program gives them another chance to get it right."
In Middlesex County,
the Probation Departments of Cambridge District, Middlesex
Superior, and Middlesex Probate & Family courts run a collaborative
Fatherhood Program which partners with the Union Baptist
Church in Cambridge where the weekly meetings are held.
Cambridge District Court Assistant
Chief Probation Officer Ronald Layne said the program has
made it possible for a number of fathers to reunite with
children they had not been in contact with for years. Layne
helped establish the program in 2000. A total of 133 fathers
have graduated from the program having learned the lessons
of positive parenting.
"A number of positive
things have happened as the result of fathers participating
in the program. They have improved their parenting skills.
Some of the fathers who were unable to have much contact
with their children prior to participating in the program
because of a court order are now able to have supervised
visits with their children," Layne said.
Middlesex County Probation Departments – Framingham
District, Waltham District, Newton District, and Natick
District – have also created a collaborative Fatherhood
Program, The South Middlesex County Fatherhood Program.
This Fatherhood Program was the recipient of a three-year
$6,000 Carlisle Foundation grant awarded jointly to the
program and the Children's Trust Fund. This Fatherhood
Program will hold its graduation on July 9th at Framingham
District Court where seven probationers will receive certificates
for completing the program. The South Middlesex County
Fatherhood Program is the newest of Probation's Fatherhood
Programs. It was launched in April.
In Norfolk County,
the Norfolk Probate & Family Court Probation Department's
Fatherhood Program held its graduation at the Endicott
Estates on June 5th. The Norfolk County Fatherhood program
was the first Fatherhood Program established by the Massachusetts
Probation Service 15 years ago. Approximately 400 fathers
have graduated from the program, according to Probation
Officer Brian Quinn, who has been running the program for
the past seven years.
Quinn said he has noticed a
willingness among offenders who want to "learn or
do something about" becoming a positive influence
on their children.
"In the early days, it
was clear that the offenders were not all that excited
about doing this," he said. "But, I think a
large population of men really want to be better fathers."
In Plymouth County,
Brockton District Court runs a Fatherhood Program, which
was established in 2000. The court held its graduation
on June 13th at the court. Plymouth County Probate & Family
Court Judge James V. Menno was the keynote speaker. A total
of 132 fathers have gone through the program.
Fatherhood Programs include several separate programs in
place at three of the eight divisions of the Boston Municipal
Court: Dorchester, East Boston, and West Roxbury.
The Fatherhood Program at BMC-Dorchester
was established in 1998 and is run by Assistant Chief Probation
Officer Van Thomas Straughter. A total of 255 fathers have
graduated from the program. The East Boston Division of
BMC, managed by Assistant Chief Probation Officer An Vu,
has graduated 90 fathers. Vu started this
program at the court in 2002.
More than 100 fathers
have graduated from the Fatherhood Program at the West
Roxbury division of the Boston Municipal Court, according
to Probation Officer Brad McNichols who runs the program
there. The program has been in place for 12 years. A graduation
ceremony is scheduled for July 3rd at Bethel African Methodist
At Chelsea District Court, also
in Suffolk County, approximately 16 probationers
completed the Fatherhood Program. This Fatherhood Program
was first launched a year ago, according to Chelsea Chief
Probation Officer Vito Aluia. The program's graduation
ceremony took place early this month at ROCA, a Chelsea-based
human services agency.
Thomas Mitchell, who established
the program with Deputy Commissioner Steve Bocko, said
he is pleased the program has grown and is now in place
throughout the state.
"I feel an immense amount
of pride. It (program) struck a cord with people. Universally,
everyone wants to be a great parent. 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.
They have to break that cycle – break that chain
and step up to the plate," said Mitchell. "The
Fatherhood Program was something that was definitely needed.
Kids, fathers, and families benefit even to this day."