Storybook dads Mar 2017 What we’ve been up to this month: Families First Course This month saw us lead the third of our ‘Families First’ courses here at HMP Channings Wood. The course is open to any men in the prison shortly to be released and especially to those with children. Storybook Dads developed the course to help men to adjust to the emotional pressures of returning to their families. Often family situations have changed, children have continued to grow and mature in their parent’s absence and other relatives have had to step in to fill the void left when a family member is in prison. Our course aims to get the men to share their situations, talk about their concerns, manage expectations, set realistic goals and give practical advice on how to cope with the return their family and their role within it. It’s about reconnecting, knowing both rights and responsibilities, especially concerning children and also looking forward to their ambitions and hopes for the future. Our courses have gained very positive feedback from the men involved: ‘I learned a lot and it made me more determined to stay out of prison in the future.’ ‘We had open conversations – I felt comfortable in the group... it was good to listen to others.’ The course lasts for four days and allows time for the men to build up trust amongst each another and become more open about their own situations, something which they rarely get the opportunity to do in the very tough and macho environment of a male prison. They are also given the opportunity to spend a day creating a gift for their children in a workshop run by one of own project workers who has a 40 year professional career history in the arts. Many have never created anything for their children themselves before and not only find a huge sense of accomplishment in making something they didn’t know they had the skills to do, such as a picture frames, trinket box, and key rings but also find their children really treasure something so personal which shows them that their imprisoned parent is thinking about them. Our aim is to continue to run the course at regular intervals throughout the year... offering a unique mix of practical, emotional and reflective support before men rejoin their families.