I joined FII-Multnomah County in December 2017 after hearing about it from FII’s Liaison. To join, I reached into my community of family and friends, bringing together six other families to join me. I am a writer, public speaker and painter, and I joined FII because I wanted to utilize the UpTogether community to advocate for the tools I learned about parenting my four children and to help families in my community build better support networks with each other around issues they care about.
In November 2017, I published my first book, Prison Fathers: Parenting Behind Bars available on Amazon.com. This book charts my six-year journey to overcome the constraints of prison to parent my children, details the relationships I had with my children, and teaches you tools you can use to parent your children while in prison. I am utilizing FII UpTogether’s network of families to publicize my book and public speaking engagements. In February, when I was a guest on Portland’s public access Ghetto Rise Media Books & Beats talk show hosted Charles Hanna, I promoted the show through UpTogether. FII families from around Portland called into the show to learn more. I also speak to local audiences about how to re-enter civilian life after prison.
Late last year, Oregon passed a state law giving children with incarcerated parents a bill of rights. Now, I am working with Oregon’s governor’s office implementation team on how to translate that law into reality. Our goal is to help Oregon’s human services, criminal justice and foster care systems create policies that reduce the trauma experienced by children and allow them to maintain stronger ties with their parents, especially children that have been placed in foster care. At the same time, I am developing a curriculum to teach inmates the tools I developed and learned to parent my children while in prison. I am hoping that my Parenting Over Prison Project (POPP) curriculum may help inform some parts of the implementation of the children’s bill of rights.
As a group, my FII cohort is designing a group calendar so that all our members can post information about our upcoming events — to keep other group members informed but also allow us to support one another. Being part of my group has encouraged me to set new goals, as well as given me more ideas on how to achieve my goals. I have also found the data journal helpful: They act as a reminder about my goals and keeps me on target.