As featured in the Chicopee Register.
Michael Roper of Chicopee watched with pride as a video about his experience learning how to be a supportive, nurturing father aired at the Massachusetts Children’s Trusts virtual gala yesterday evening. Roper began working with the Children’s Trust’s Nurturing Father’s program as part of a post-release program after his incarceration at Hampshire County House of Corrections.
Roper shared his experience growing up in an adoptive home and dealing drugs to make money, which ultimately led to his incarceration at Hampshire County House of Corrections. “I was a little on the rougher end but that day when my baby was born, it was like a little spark. I felt a bit of warmth I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was home on parole, and I held her, and it felt so amazing,” said Roper. “I remember telling myself, I don’t want to do the rest of my life in prison. I want to be there for my daughter.”
The Children’s Trust and Hampshire County House of Corrections partner to offer the Nurturing Fathers program, helping incarcerated fathers build parenting skills and strengthen their bonds with their children. The 13-week program provides guidance and counseling to fathers. Fathers begin the program by exploring their own childhood and midway through the course, they are observed interacting with their children. Trained facilitators provide feedback and individualized support to help program participants strengthen their parenting skills.
“Some of the topics we covered [in Nurturing Fathers] were discipline, learning trust, honesty, and how to be a nurturing dad - and not thinking all males need to be hardened. That was a big eye-opener for me… If I didn’t have Nurturing Fathers, I don’t think I would have grasped that because of the way I was brought up,” said Roper. “The whole point was that it was all dads trying to become better fathers.”
Roper spent 10 years in prison but says he has changed his life around for his daughter. “As long as I maintain where I’m at, my daughter’s future is going to be bright,” said Roper.