The Importance of Father Figures

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Most inmates look forward to receiving pictures from their families and friends.  Taking a great picture involves many elements.  It only takes a few simple steps to learn how to send a great picture to your friend/loved one.


Why are Father Figures Important

This entry has been written by an Inmate who chooses to remain Anonymous.  

All of the women and mothers who have a male member in prison must know and understand the importance of a father figure in a child’s life. In fact, research has shown that positive father interaction is a key factor in the development of a child. Children with positive paternal influences are happier, healthier and less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol or get involved in criminal behaviour.

The benefits of being an involved father go beyond the positive outcomes for children. Involved fathers are also happier and more self-confident.
I am encouraging all incarcerated father’s to take the necessary steps to stay involved, even if the child is a teenager, even if it will be difficult.
For the men who are in prison,“ it’s never too late to get involved with you kids… later is absolutely better than never… you can become a more involved father starting at just about any age.”

Step 1: Encourage the father to get legal Representation

As soon as the inmate enters the justice system,  try and secure legal representation. Lawyers work within correctional facilities to secure the inmate’s rights as a parent and will be able to aid them in establishing their right to see their child upon release. Legal representation is available through Legal Aid and Duty Counsel within the facility. Each facility has these services available to inmates; however, its delivery varies by institution. Therefore, the inmate may have to take the initiative to secure this representation.

“Being a father by definition requires sacrifice. But any seasoned father can tell you that no matter how much sacrifice is required, the rewards are always greater.”

Step 2: Stay Involved

Why stay involved? The reasons are quite simple. If a father wants to play a role in their child’s life upon release, the father must stay involved as much as possible while serving their time. Staying involved has many benefits:

  • The child or children will benefit from having a father figure in their life, an important role that needs to be filled during their development.
  • The child or children won’t feel like they have lost their father when he enter into the system. The father must make sure that his child realizes that he wants to continue to be part of their life. “And whether we live in the same house or thousands of miles away, the key ingredient is time. Not physical presence, but real, focused, emotionally present time…It can take place in their physical presence, while talking to them on the telephone, or when writing them a letter.”
  • Maintaining contact with family members is something that will be regarded as a positive step when the inmate seeks to secure visitation and parental rights in the future. If the inmate maintains contact, the child will feel more comfortable visiting the father when he is released. The courts will also view the father as deserving since he was maintaining a consistent connection with the child.

How can I maintain Contact with my child while incarcerated?

Inmates can have reasonable contact with their families while incarcerated. Eligibility in all cases is subject the discretion of the Warden and other facility officers. The best interests of your child are always a priority.

If possible, arrange a visitation schedule. In federal correctional institutions, the Private Family Visiting (PFV) program may be available to you. Under this program, private family visits are available to inmates for periods of up to 72 hours per visit. How often you can have a PFV is subject to availability.

If you are a noncustodial parent, your minor child cannot visit the institution without a guardian accompanying the child. If the custodial parent in the community is supportive, it may be possible to arrange to have a temporary guardian to accompany your child to the visit. The institution will require a signed, dated and notarized document stating who the legal guardian is and that the legal guardian allows another person, such as a grandparent or other family member, to bring the child to the institution for a visit.

If visits are too uncomfortable for the child, contact can still be maintained. Children go through many phases during their development. A child may initially reject seeing their father, but later during your incarceration, they might want to re-establish the connection. A father must put the child’s needs and wishes before his own.

Writing Letters

Letters are a great way to stay in touch. Letters are also proof of your commitment to stay involved in your child’s life.  See our blog on fun letter writing tips.

  1.  Write as frequently as possible! Try not to forget important occasions in your child’s life like birthdays. “The issue is not absence, for no matter how painful, that is something we can all adjust to. The real issue is presence: how to be, consistently and meaningfully, a presence in our children’s lives…One way of creating that presence is reminding them, in whatever way works, just how important they are.”
  2. Try to establish common areas of interest. For example, Lloyd Withers, in Time Together, makes the following suggestions:
    1. if your child likes to draw, then exchange drawings with your child.
    2. Suggest watching the same TV show and then write letters discussing what you liked about it.
    3. Write stories for your child.
    4. Read a bedtime story to your child over the phone.
  3. Copies of letters can be made and forwarded to another family member and your legal counsel if you are worried that your child is not receiving the letters.  These same letters can be used later as proof of your commitment to be involved in your child’s life.

Step 3: What to expect as an Incarcerated Father?

You can expect Hard Work!  You will need to use the resources that are available to you. You must have modest expectations. Your child may not initially want contact with you, you might be deemed a security risk to your child, and family members might make it difficult to maintain contact. It is up to you to do everything in your power to show that you want to stay in your child’s life.

“Our children should be constantly reminded of how important to us our connection to them is. And the different ways available to us to do this are unlimited.”

Letter of Support

Letters of support from a parole officer, correctional officer, chaplain or psychologist are a great way to show that you have made positive changes in your life and are ready to make the commitment to your child upon release. Make your goals and objectives to see your child known to these people, and they will likely guide and support you through this process.

Final Thoughts

“I love you unconditionally because you are my child, and at the very depth of my soul I need to be as good a father to you as I possibly can because I need you in my life.”