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Reentry-focused Strength in Families Program Begins at Four Washington DOC Facilities

July 14, 2016

By Mary Captain, Mary Cliffton, Darin Goff and Carolyn House-Higgins

Department of Corrections

The four beehives will provide an educational opportunity in sustainability and help improve local community for AHCC

Winning Strength In Families logo design held by Tera McElravy See photo gallery...

A program for incarcerated fathers that provides support for positive parenting, healthy relationships with partners and co-parents and economic stability launched at four Washington Department of Corrections facilities this month.

On July 1, DOC facilitators began the Strength in Families program, as part of the Responsible Fatherhood Opportunities for Reentry and Mobility (ReFORM) grant, which was awarded to the agency in October 2015.

The program includes a combination of classes and case management for incarcerated fathers, up to nine months before release and six months or more following release. Currently, the program is being offered in Washington Corrections Center (WCC), Larch Corrections Center (LCC), Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) and Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) for fathers or father figures who are returning to Thurston, Lewis, Cowlitz and Clark Counties. Southwest Washington was selected for the project because in this part of the state there are particularly high rates of children with incarcerated parents and because, historically, projects and pilots are often placed in a limited number of urban counties.

The launch of the grant-funded program coincides with the adoption of a new name. Up until now, the program has been called ReFORM, based on the name of the grant. Guided by input from internal and external stakeholders, a new name was selected that represents the intent of the program: Strength in Families. Research shows that the impacts on children of a parent being incarcerated are significant and can be far-reaching. Strength in Families is focused on ways to counter this impact by partnering with reentering parents, their families and our communities.

In July, orientation workshops and classes are offered at each facility by Family Services Instructors, starting with research-based Walking the Line and evidence-based Parenting Inside Out. These programs have proven effectiveness in teaching partners and co-parents to build healthy communication skills and positive parenting approaches with their children. Participants in the Strength in Families program will also complete the Job Seeking Skills class offered inside their facility by contracted community college staff.

Upon release, participants have access to two additional courses: Emotion Coaching: The Heart of Parenting and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work from the Gottman Institute . Before and after release, program participants and interested co-parents and/or partners will work with assigned Case Managers and Education and Employment Navigators. These program staff, along with two Family Services Instructors partner with participants and families to support successful and sustainable transitions back into the community.

In preparation for the July 1 launch of the program, Tera McElravy, one of the program’s Family Services Instructors, led a logo design competition for inmates. In order to create a design, the inmates had to think in terms of what fatherhood represented to them and capture this idea that would be depicted in the logo. The contest winner, Thomas Mullin-Coston, created a logo with a parent and child, with images of both a home and a corrections facility overlaid in the background.

If you have questions about this new program, please contact Carolyn House-Higgins on 360-725-8675 or

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant # 90-FO-0008. These services are available to all eligible persons, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, or religion. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.