EASTON - The Talbot County Department of Social Services Young Fathers/Non-Custodial Parents Employment Program launched the Inside Out Dad curriculum through its outreach with the Talbot County Department of Corrections. Initiated in 2010, this program teaches employment readiness, financial management and personal effectiveness.

"Based on about 15,000 inmates released from the Maryland Department of Corrections per year, one half of these individuals are back in prison within three years and 20 percent are reincarcerated within three months," according to Tom Wardrop, outreach facilitator and mentor, Talbot County Department of Social Services. "If inmates start taking advantage of the programs available to them in prison to change their behavior, their chances increase dramatically for a successful re-entry into society."

Over the last two years, 45 fathers have participated in the program, which included 11 modules with 12 classes in each module. As a result of the program, several fathers requested that a Re-Entry Support Group be formed to provide them with support re-entering the community. The group, called IF (Inspire Fatherhood), launched with four core members, was honored for their commitment during an awards ceremony at the Department of Social Services.

"We want to create opportunities for men and women not to look at jail as a low spot, but rather as a starting place for the 'correcting' to happen," said Doug Devenyns, director of the Talbot County Department of Corrections.

Membership in the Re-Entry Support Group requires that the dads participate in the Inside Out Dad Program while incarcerated, attend two consecutive meetings of the support group, remain drug and alcohol free, be employed or enrolled in school full time, have no subsequent criminal charges and attempt to engage in the lives of their children. In addition to its regular meetings, the support group has held family-centered events.

"This group supports the personal growth of its members and their children and will ultimately promote the growth and development of other fathers released from prison. Although society often focuses on the cost of incarceration, which is estimated at about $40,000 a year per inmate, the real cost is the fatherless family which ends up at the poverty level afterwards," Wardop said.

Deborah Short, Talbot County Department of Social Services Advisory Board Member and director of Building African American Minds, commended the men on their accomplishments.

"You are dads making a difference. If ever you think you aren't, take a look in the rearview mirror at your kids," Short said.

Emily Joiner, Program Coordinator of the Young Fathers/Non-Custodial Parents Employment Program, presented the certificates of recognition and pins to the four core Support Group members, Vincent Bratcher, Dewayne Camper, James Carter III and Quartez Roberts for each of their milestones with the support group.

"I wasn't taking responsibility for my family and I was neglecting my obligations. The Fatherhood Program provided me with the tools I needed and gave me a new start. I am finally proud of myself," Bratcher said.

For further information about the Talbot County Child Support Program or Young Father's/Non-Custodial Parent Employment Program, contact Dawn Coleman, child support supervisor, Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-770-4848.

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