About Family First ~ Helping Families Be Families
Family First is a Department of Corrections’ family program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution that is dedicated to strengthening the relationship between children and their incarcerated fathers. This unique program is directed by the OSCI Administration.
Time and separation are real hardships for children whose fathers are incarcerated. Long gaps between visits seem longer to children with their sense of loss. Family First events are designed to help children and fathers build relationships while the father is incarcerated. A Sportsmanship Event ~ July 2006
In July 2006, a Sportsmanship Event had families building pinewood derby cars to be raced as soon as the paint dried. The races made the evening go by particularly fast, but no so fast, that kids could not take hold of the fun they were having with their father. Sons and daughters were equally pleased with having a bit of competition mixed in with an activity with dad.
The kids took their cars home along with the memory of fun with dad. None of the children were happy to leave that evening, but they didn’t leave empty handed, each of them had a sense that there were better days to come. Caregiver Appreciation Event ~ December 2007
On December 7, 2007, Family First held its annual Caregiver Appreciation Event in the OSCI visiting room. Fathers and their children worked together to show appreciation for the child’s caregiver by serving a meal and honoring them. A full meal was prepared and served so families could sit down and eat together as a family unit. This was an amazing event; for some children it was the first time they sat and ate a meal with their father.
This year dad made Christmas a part of the event. Family First purchased wooden ornaments that were decorated by the families after dinner. When the kids finished painting they hung the ornaments on the Christmas tree that was displayed throughout the Christmas season.
Toward the end of the evening each caregiver picked one of 17 shawls crocheted by Karen Bennet and her team. Santa also showed up at the event and gave each family a small bag of truffles.
Family First members continue to notice that many of the families are more comfortable in the visiting room and the children are showing a sense of ease among each other. Fathers have commented that their regular visits have shown the same sense of ease.
Number of families: 14
Number of children participant: 28 Scrapbooking Event ~ February 2008
On February 15, 2008, Family First hosted a scrapbooking event in the OSCI visiting room. Fathers and their children worked together to create family scrapbook pages for their ongoing scrapbooks. This is the second event where families worked on arts and crafts and spent quality time together.
The Scrapbooking Event provided an excellent opportunity for children and fathers to communicate in a relaxed setting outside the restrictions of normal visiting. Kids got to make a mess while creating a scrapbook page to take home and remind them of their father. Fathers practiced listening and understanding skills learned in Parenting Inside Out program.
After scrapbooking, the families were able to play board games, which provided further time for the families to bond and spend time together.
Number of Families: 12
Number of child participants: 22 A Charitable Night - Union Gospel Mission ~ April 2008
On April 18, 2008, Family First hosted a community service event in the OSCI visiting room where fathers and their children worked together to help others. The goal was to teach the kids the value of helping, giving and working in the community.
Family First partnered with the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and made arrangements for the kids and fathers to work side-by-side putting together care bags. These bags were then handed out at the mission to people in need. Four different types of bags were assembled: men, women, mother and child.
At the event, the children painted a number of denim bags with colorful sayings and drawings. When they were finished, Donna Armstrong, the Outreach Coordinator for UGM, gave a presentation about UGM, its programs, and the importance of helping others. The kids learned about homeless people and the lives they live. After the discussion, the families worked together to fill the bags. In total 130 bags were made.
The final part of the evening was spent with the fathers working in a “Helpfulness Workbook” that they made prior to the event. Kids answered a number of questions about homelessness, helpfulness, charity, work, thinking about others and how they can help.
Number of families: 11
Number of child participants: 26
Sponsors: Private Individual Donations – Cash
Ross Dress for Less
OCE Prison Blues Garment Factory
The Wordshop (Mary Ann Radmacher) Picnic Event ~ August 2008
On August 23, 2008, Family First hosed a Family picnic event outside the visiting room at OSCI. Fathers played with their children and spent time with their families in a variety of activities. This was Family First’s send outside event.
After a picnic of hamburgers, hotdogs and lots of fresh fruit all the families participated in a variety of races and activities including the Egg-In-Spoon Race, Three-legged Race, Bunny Hop Race, Ping Pong Ball Toss and Volleyball.
This event is a favorite among the families who enjoy Family First. To see the kids playing outside with their dads and benefiting from these activities is why Family First is so important.