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Sheriff Spotlight: Hampshire's Nurturing Fathers Program

A program graduate comforts his daughter during a graduation ceremony.

In 2016 the Hampshire County Sheriff's Office partnered with the Children’s Trust, an organization that fights to stop child abuse in Massachusetts, to start a Nurturing Fathers Program. The 13-week course provides guidance and counseling to fathers during their incarceration.

“When I first became Sheriff of Hampshire County, I told community leaders that I wanted to transition more of the incarcerated population into the community, that I wanted the House of Correction to be part of the community. So, when Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan introduced me to the people at The Children’s Trust, the Nurturing Fathers Program seemed liked a perfect fit,” Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane said. “I am reminded of the quote by the renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said ‘the supreme test of any civilization is whether or not it can teach men to become good fathers.’ When we started the program, I believed that if we can mentor and guide young men, and help them to mentor and guide their children, we can strengthen our communities and help save the next generation. I still believe that.”

A program participant poses with his child during a graduation ceremony.

Each class provides proven, effective skills for healthy family relationships and child development. Fathers begin the program by exploring their own childhood, understanding feelings and emotions, and nurturing skills to heal and grow. Participants learn how to manage anger, reduce stress, and overcome any other barriers. The program is hands on as fathers are observed interacting with their children during a father-child play day. Trained facilitators provide feedback and individualized support to help program participants strengthen their parenting skills.

“Program participants have told me the experience is life altering. The curriculum requires each participant to examine the little boy inside to help them find the father they want to become. That can be difficult for a lot of men, but the reward for such in-depth self-examination is a better understanding of how to do better by your child,” Sheriff Cahillane said. “The program is the beginning of a process that will serve children well into the future. It’s also worth noting that of the 99 men who graduated from the program while incarcerated, only three have returned to the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction. I think that’s a hopeful sign.”

The program has proven so successful that in 2018, Sheriff Cahillane and his team received the "Emerging Leader" award from The Children's Trust for their dedication to the program. Building on this momentum, in 2020, the program was extended to men in the Hampshire community through partnerships with the Northampton Recovery Center and the Ware Recovery Center.

Sheriff Cahillane accepts the Governor Paul Cellucci Fatherhood Award at the Children's Trust Annual Gala.

In 2023, the Children’s Trust awarded Sheriff Cahillane with the Governor Paul Cellucci Fatherhood Award at its annual Gala. The program continues to be recognized for its outstanding commitment to fatherhood and transformative impact.

"I believe that strong, safe families help build strong, safe communities," Sheriff Cahillane said. "Our staff has done great work with this program, and we are proud and grateful to be a partner with Children’s Trust in this important mission."

Research underscores the critical role fathers play in child development, with fatherless homes often linked to negative outcomes for children. In contrast, involved fathers contribute to various benefits, from improved maternal and infant health to better academic performance. Sheriff Cahillane said that by mentoring and guiding young men, the program serves as a catalyst for positive change, ultimately benefiting future generations. The Sheriff's commitment to nurturing fathers through this program exemplifies a dedication to building stronger families and communities.

“I can say that if we mentor and guide and examine young men and help them guide their children, we will help save the next generation,” said Sheriff Cahillane.

Sheriff Cahillane poses for a picture with Nurturing Fathers program staff, graduates of the program, and graduate's family members.

To date, over 150 fathers have graduated from the program, marking a significant positive impact on families in the Hampshire County area.

Check out this video produced by the Children’s Trust, it showcases the impact of the Nurturing Fathers program:

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