This article is written by Erik Von Ancken and originally appeared at CLICK ORLANDO. The article is republished here with permission from the author. This post is a followup to two articles we shared in November of 2020 and February 2021.
FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Deandre McCall never knew his father when he was a child.
“We just spoke about a year ago,” McCall, 26, said sitting at a classroom table inside the Flagler County Jail. “When nobody teaches you to be a father you kind of wing it. You know, wing it. Make a lot of mistakes.”
Now, McCall is a father of four children under the age of 10.
“I had a baby before graduating (high school),” McCall said. “It’s hard to watch kids grow up through pictures. It’s crazy, you miss a lot. I was there for most of their births and stuff and they get attached to you. I was out from prison for six months before I got arrested again, and I got real close to all of my kids. And now I get stripped away again after I get a personal relationship with them.”
McCall is currently in the Flagler County Jail serving an eight-month sentence for violation of probation.
“Robbery back in 2017, did a three-year prison sentence. Got out on probation,” McCall said.
He was on track to graduate with an academic and arts scholarship in high school.
“Coming up where I was in my circle of friends, everybody was ripping and running, living the fast life,” McCall said. “You don’t really get to sit down and talk to people about being a father and bettering yourself as a man.”
But when McCall learned of the Inside-Out Dads program at the Flagler County Jail, he signed up immediately.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly started the national program at the jail in 2020.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three children live without their biological father in the home,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson said. “Consequently, there is a ‘father factor’ in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today, including right here in Flagler County. Research shows when a child grows up in a home absent a father, he or she is more likely to go to prison because one in five prison inmates also had a father in prison, more likely to commit a crime, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, two times more likely to drop out of high school, four times more likely to live in poverty.”
Staly asked Chaplain Doug Francis of Tomoko Christian Church to lead the program at the jail since Francis was already a prison chaplain at the Tomoko Correctional Institution.
“Each group I asked how many of you in your lifetime have never had your father tell you that they love you and it’s always 90% or higher, one class was 100%,” Francis said. “Some of them simply because they never knew their father, they raise their hand because there was no one there at all to tell them that they love them at all.”
Francis said the classroom sessions inside the jail are twice per week for six weeks.
“We go through life and all the education and we get no one teaches you to be a father or parent, you pretty much learn that from your own parents, and if that was a bad influence or situation, that’s going to be passed on,” Francis said. “We teach your role as a father, what your role should be, the difference between raising boys and girls, how to be a better husband.”
McCall said he’s learned that he needs to be there for his young children, now more than ever.
“It’s more important to be hands-on with your kids now than it was when I was coming up or you were coming up,” McCall said. “You can’t really shelter them from the negative things going on, so you have to be there to teach them morals and be hands-on through all of this. I feel it’s more of a lead-by-example, a better husband falls hand-in-hand with being a better father because, when you lead by example, you teach your son how to love a woman and conduct yourself, same as you teach a daughter what kind of man they should go after. If they see and respect and cater to their mother, they won’t expect anything less with who they date.”
McCall said he’s never coming back to jail or prison.
“I have a couple plans -- getting into school, getting into work, designating time for my family and church and things like that,” McCall said. “I’m positive. I spent almost my whole adult life in and out of the system. I never once in the four times I’ve been arrested thought that I wasn’t coming back, this will be the first time today.”
InsideOut Dad® teaches incarcerated fathers the parenting skills they need that some dads have never received, including:
- Dealing with family history
- Child development
- How to discipline
- Handling and showing emotions
- Handling and improving relationships with their child’s mother
- Fathering from inside jail
- How to budget and how to provide for their children
InsideOut Dad® has now graduated two classes, including McCalls’, and is currently in the middle of a third at the Flagler County jail.
“The last thing I tell them in class: ‘Are you going to talk to your kids this weekend?’ and most of them to say yes,” Francis said. “And I say, ‘What’s the last thing you’re going to say before you hang up?’ And they all holler out, ‘I love you, I love you.’ "
According to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the InsideOut Dad® curriculum has been used in more than 400 facilities nationwide and nine out of 10 inmates enrolled in the program do not return to jail or prison.
Erik Von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.