KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The 24/7 Dad group for inmates at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility is led by a young man committed to helping reduce the number of fatherless families in our community.

Sam Ford is helping inmates through a flood of emotions from fear, to regret, and to guilt over decisions that landed them behind bars and away from their families.

“How does it feel to not be there now?” he asks the group, with one inmate replying, “horrible. Never happen again.”

Ford remembers his first session overseeing the 24/7 Dad group last year.

“Within 20 minutes, guys were crying, people were expressing emotion, it’s going back and forth so that exposure was pretty monumental to me, ” Ford says.

One inmate, who asked that we not use his last name, says even in his mid-50’s, he’s learning how to be a better father and grandfather.

“You need to think on their side,” “Greg” says, “as much as your side too. Don’t be beating on them and all that. That’s unnecessary. Just being there and supporting them, you need to help them, not beat on them, and put them in a corner. That ain’t gonna work.”

The 24/7 Dad program was developed by the National Fatherhood Initiative, focusing on key characteristics every father needs:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-care
  • Fathering skills
  • Parenting skills
  • Relationship skills

“It’s supposed to be a 12 session group, “Ford says,” and so you learn 12 different topics and work on them: what it means to be a man, education, men’s health, things like that.”

Ford is volunteering his time to continue this program now that grant funding has run out, committed to helping men change their lives by working together.

“We’re trying to help each other understand what we have done wrong and what not to do again,” Greg says, “get help for our problems that they have in here.”

If you’re interested in helping to fund the 24/7 Dad program, call Sam Ford at 865-356-8315.