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Introduction

Josh learns to be the father he never had

Josh learns to be the father he never had

To mark Father’s Day, Nii Anum, Spurgeons Senior Practitioner at Feltham Young Offenders Institute, shares how he helped a young offender become a good dad to his newborn son.

Josh* was sixteen when he arrived at Feltham. But it was several months before he mentioned that he was going to become a dad – at which point, I started working with him.

Josh only has memories and photos of his own dad who left when he was very young. His grandfather took on the role of father – Josh adored him. But when Josh turned eight, his granddad died. With that father figure gone, Josh spiralled out of control. He loved his mum, but she found it hard to discipline him and he got involved with gangs and into trouble.

I had only six weeks to work with him before his court case came up. If guilty, he would go to prison as he was turning eighteen. We met for an hour or two every week – using a study pack about fatherhood, we talked about his experiences, how they helped shape him, what his ideas on masculinity and fatherhood were, and that it was OK to be vulnerable and how to express emotion.

A week after his little boy was born, we arranged a video call for Josh to meet him online. His son, so like him, was sleeping peacefully in his mother’s arms.

Josh sat silently for ages, staring at this small person he’d helped to create, transfixed with wonder. I knew all the discussions we’d had were running through his mind – that this was the turning point, his opportunity to leave gangs and crime behind so that his little son didn’t get drawn into that life too.

I saw Josh once more, just before his court case. I reminded him how important it was to put what we’d discussed into action. I said, ‘It will be hard – your son will wake you in the night, you’ll have to change our plans and how you make money for the sake of your boy and giving him the future you want him to have. But you can do it.’

Josh was quiet for a moment. Then he said ‘I want to thank you from deep down’.

Josh won his court case and got released. He’s home now – with support, he is learning to play an active and positive part in his son’s life – learning to be the father he never had.

*Name has been changed

About Spurgeons Prison-based Family Support Services:

Spurgeons delivers family support services in 12 prisons across England. These services provide family support services for prisoners and their families and friends who visit them, with a particular focus on children and strengthening family relationships. We appreciate how important prison visits are for everyone involved. Our aim is to make them less daunting so that the time spent together helps families to re-connect in a positive way. We are always here to offer practical and emotional support.

To learn more about our work in prisons, click here.