Future Learnings

Author: Brendan Perry

“When you’re locked up, you can’t stop thinking where you went wrong in life, and how you’ll make everything okay again... But I had no plan, no escape from my old ways and I had my kids to think about.”

These are the words of Antwane White, a Fathers and Families Support Center Alum, after spending 10 years in prison.

Approximately 2.7 million children in the United States have a parent who is incarcerated. While the family challenges during incarceration are great, the negative effects often linger even after the parent’s re-entry. Children who have experienced parental incarceration have been associated with higher rates of psychological problems and antisocial behavior, lower educational attainment, and restricted economic success. Furthermore, these children are six times more likely than their peers who did not experience parental incarceration to become incarcerated themselves.

The Father and Families Support Center was founded in 1997 with a goal to break the cycle of poverty, child neglect and abuse, and welfare dependence by educating and preparing fathers to become responsible parents with the financial stability to support their children materially and the parenting skills to support them emotionally and developmentally. While Fathers and Families Support Center operates programming throughout their St. Louis community, a crucial tenet of their services takes place in the Transition Center of St. Louis (TCSTL). This Transition Center programming seeks to disrupt this cycle of familial criminality by prioritizing long-term employment and challenging incarcerated parents to become more involved in the lives of their children.

The reentry services offer a unique and encouraging path for participants to return from incarceration and make a successful impact on their children and families. The program consists of 30 sessions over six weeks taught at TCSTL, with participants attending class every weekday. Program instructors implement a structured curriculum, covering the topics of personal responsibility, communication, manhood and relationships, fatherhood, job readiness, financial literacy, and healthy eating.

LEO is collaborating with Fathers and Families Support Center and TCSTL to rigorously evaluate the Transition Center programming via a randomized controlled trial. Due to capacity constraints, Fathers and families cannot serve every eligible man that matriculates through the Transition Centers. Consequently, LEO has introduced a lottery to the programs intake system. Newly arriving incarcerated men are randomly assigned to receive either Fathers and Families programming or the “business as usual” programming at TCSTL.

Outcomes for consenting individuals in the Father and Families group and the “business as usual” group will be compared to determine the program’s impact. Key outcomes of interest include recidivism, employment, and family engagement.

Antwane White participated in Fathers and families’ reentry programming in 2020. Upon release, Antwane gained stable employment, took on primary custody of his son, and acted as mentor to other justice-involved individuals.

LEO is excited to produce rigorous evidence on the impact of the Fathers and Families programming with the goal of supporting more fathers like Antwane in St. Louis and beyond.

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