Program helps incarcerated parents bond with family - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Program helps incarcerated parents bond with family

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41) -- The local organization Forever Family reconnects incarcerated parents with their children and families. Just days before Christmas, some of the men shared family time as they get ready to re-enter society.

Charles Ballard is cherishing every moment he has with his four-year-old daughter Breanna.

"She was about one-year and five-months old when I came in and she'll soon be five in April," said Charles Ballard, chairman of alumni group.

While his daughter was learning how to walk and talk, Ballard was serving time in prison and missing out on time with his family.

"For the first time in five years I got to see my oldest daughter," Ballard.

But thanks to a program called Forever Family in partnership with Dismas Charities, Ballard and other men are getting to know the children they've grown distant from as they transition from prison life to everyday society.

"St. Ann's is a 70 bed substance abuse program for parolees, or, guys who are released from prison they are paroled from prison upon completion of the substance abuse program," said Mark Meredith, Dismiss Charities.

"This program is to reconnect fathers with their children, so these fathers go through nine weeks of classes, very, very, intense classes that deal with communications skills. There's a segment on child support, we have a presentation by a mother that will come and talk to these fathers about the challenges of raising her children on her own," said James Levell, Forever Family.

One of those mothers is Staffonda Cleaver, who's husband Steven is going through the program while she raises her children alone.

"It's helped Steven counteract with his children more. I think he's grown," said Cleaver.

On Family Celebration Day, Cleaver's children and others get an early Christmas gift of time with their fathers.

"I miss him a lot," said Lasteven Cleaver, son.

"I miss him being around and basically having fun," said Reauna Cleaver, daughter.

"Some of these fathers haven't or had contact with their children for a number of years. The family celebration is where we actually bring these fathers into contact with their children," said Levell.

This past Wednesday 21 men graduated from the program.

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