Children connect with their incarcerated parents over holidays

Children connect with their incarcerated parents over holidays


CONTACT Cara Wilwerding, Communications Manager

OFFICE 402-479-5712 |

Dec. 21, 2017 (Lincoln, Neb). – The holidays offer a time for family members – most notably children and parents – to bond and grow closer together. For the children of incarcerated parents, however, opportunities to see one’s mom or dad can be few and far between.

Christian Heritage – a Christ-centered ministry with offices in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney – is making the holiday season a bit easier for children who are missing their incarcerated parents. Through their “DVD from Dad” program, incarcerated fathers can record a 10-minute video for their children.

“We encourage them to talk to their kids just like they’re sitting at home on the couch,” Christian Heritage Family Advocate Andi Bishop said. “It means so much to the children that their dad made this for them.”

In addition to talking to their child, fathers can also read them a book and even play them music. With permission from the child’s mother, Christian Heritage provides the child with a copy of the DVD and the book.

“DVD from Dad is great because kids can’t call their dad when they’re missing him,” Bishop said. “If they’re having a bad day and just want to see dad, they can just pop that DVD in. Younger kids will watch that DVD over and over and carry that book around for weeks.”

Incarcerated men hoping to create a DVD must first complete “Inside Out Dad” – the first of three classes in the “Destination Dad” program. Bishop described “Inside Out Dad” as a conversational class that helps fathers think about what they can do better as a parent. The second class in the program is “Within My Reach” – a class centered around healthy relationships and communication. Christian Heritage partners with Boys Town for the third class – “Common Sense Parenting.”

“A lot of these dads come into the program feeling like horrible fathers; feeling like they don’t matter,” Bishop said. “They walk out knowing that they do matter, even though they can’t be in their child’s day-to-day life. They still matter and they still count.”

After completing “Inside Out Dad,” fathers also become eligible for “Daddy Day Visits” – two to three hour supervised visits with their children inside the facility. Again, these visits are reliant on permission from the child’s mother. Frequent visits with one’s father have potential to truly influence a child’s demeanor, Bishop said.

“I love hearing the stories about kids’ behavior at school improving once they start doing Daddy Day Visits,” Bishop said. “Watching that connection and growth in the kids is amazing to me.”

Christian Heritage offers the “DVD from Dad” program twice a year – once during the holidays and again in the spring at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP), the Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC), the Omaha Correctional Center (OCC) and the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (TSCI). They produce an average of 100 DVDs each time.

Christian Heritage teaches “Within My Reach” and offers the opportunity for program participants to create a “DVD from Mom” at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women (NCCW).

Bishop explained that while parenting classes are ultimately for the children’s benefit, parents grow leaps and bounds too. They don’t feel so hopeless and disconnected after taking these classes, which results in fewer behavioral problems inside.

“Our data shows that misconduct frequency and intensity goes down when parents are engaged in the program,” Bishop said.

In addition to classes, more visiting time and the DVD programs, Christian Heritage also sponsors “Daddy-Daughter Dances.” They plan to host their first “Father-Son Hangout” in late January.