The Salvation Army’s Fatherhood in Action program is helping fathers in Cook County Jail build better relationships with their children and the children’s mothers. The program, which is voluntary, works with fathers to develop skills for responsible parenting and healthy relationships. They also focus on financial education and wellness. The group also deals with issues specifically related to building family relationships while in jail and after their release.
Keith Shanklin, 45, had spent about half his life in jail and wasn’t always there to parent his children. “I really learned how to be a parent to them. I learned that I can’t be their friend, I have to be their father,” he said. “There are things that I don’t need to share with them like we’re friends. It could actually hurt them.”
The work that Shanklin put into the program was emotionally grueling, but paid off. “I actually cried in class,” he said. “I’m a big dude and in jail with all these other guys and I actually cried when I was telling a story about my life.”
And now that he’s out of jail, the work he’s done is paying off. “I’ve started rebuilding my relationship with my kids. One of my sons, is now calling me regularly, and one of my daughters is actually coming over to my home to spend time with me.”
Derrick White, manager of the Fatherhood in Action program, said the program is really for any father, stepfather, or father figure who wants to strengthen their relationships with their children and their co-parent. “The program is open to anyone, but it really important for those men who may have never had their own father in their lives.”
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