Tyler Stanton woke up Sunday morning to his 3-year-old son Walker handing him a Father’s Day gift.
“He made me a picture to hang on the wall with his handprints,” Stanton, 31, of Warren, Mass., said later that day. “It’s awesome. My son is awesome.”
Spending Father’s Day with his son was especially significant for Stanton, who was released from the Hampshire County jail on parole this past fall.
Stanton is one of 73 men who have graduated from Hampshire’s “Nurturing Fathers” program, a 13-week course that provides guidance and counseling to fathers during their incarceration.
The program began in 2016 after the Hampshire County House of Corrections partnered with the Children’s Trust, an organization that fights to stop child abuse in Massachusetts.
On Sunday, the Children’s Trust announced that it had expanded the program at Hampshire to provide an additional two weeks of transitional guidance. This extended counseling is offered at the Northampton Recovery Center for fathers after they’re released, according to a statement.
Fathers begin the program by discussing their own childhoods and are later observed interacting with their children during family visits, the statement said. Participants also work with facilitators who give individualized feedback on strengthening their parenting skills.
Children’s Trust offers several Nurturing Fathers programs throughout the state, but the Hampshire program is the only one at a correctional facility.
“These men have shown extraordinary growth throughout the program and we are honored to continue to work with them to ensure they can successfully apply the parenting skills they’ve learned when they return home,” Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust, said in a statement.
Since joining the program, Stanton said, he’s been able to see positive changes in his behavior.
“I’m calmer now,” Stanton said. “I talk more, and I’ve learned to talk things through.”
Stanton said his experience with the program was invaluable because he was able to learn from other fathers’ experiences.
“I learned all kinds of different ways to deal with your children and with yourself — different viewpoints on everything from discipline to just being there for your child when they need you,” he said. “I just learned how to be a better dad.”