Program teaches inmates about being positive fathers

2011-06-16T19:42:00Z 2011-06-20T15:50:50Z Program teaches inmates about being positive fathersBy Lindsay Machak lindsay.machak@nwi.com, (219)933-3246 nwitimes.com

WESTVILLE | The last time David Felske saw his son was through a window at the LaPorte County Jail.

His son, Noah Strauss, was 4 months old then. Now he's almost a year old and Felske has missed out on much of his child's life. He didn't get to see his son take his first step or hear him utter his first word, "mama." All he knows of his son is through pictures.

Felske, 21, who is in prison for felony burglary, thinks about his son every single day, he said.

"My dad wasn't there for me and I always said I wouldn't be like that," he said. "It tears me up inside."

As Noah's first tooth grew in, Felske was spending his time behind bars preparing to be a good father.

He participated in a class at Westville Correctional Facility in connection with the National Fatherhood Initiative in hopes of learning about good parenting.

Inmates take a three-month program taught by an outside volunteer focusing on family values and relationships with both children and significant others.

The class is offered to encourage better family relationships when the inmates are released, Westville spokesman John Schrader said.

The class is high in demand, he said.

Felske said he feels the class was a great program because it taught him how to listen to a child and respond to their concerns. He learned about discipline and being available -- something he wishes his own father would have done for him.

His biggest fear as a first-time parent is that his son will turn out like him.

"I just want him to be successful and responsible -- not like me," he said.

Aaron Seibal also completed the course with the goal of making a change in his life.

Seibal, 30, has three daughters between the ages of 10 and 13, Ruby, Halie and Maggie.

His oldest daughter, Ruby, 13, misses doing "dad stuff" with him. He coached her softball team for a year before going to prison.

"My dad not being here is kind of hurtful sometimes," she said. "Because, yeah, it's like he's my dad, but I don't have a dad with me here right now."

Seibal hasn't seen his kids in 2 1/2 years. He was sentenced to six years in prison on a felony drug charge.

He also went through the dads program in prison and learned what mistakes he has made in the past when it came to raising his daughters, he said.

"It's opened my eyes to how I've treated my kids," he said. "Maybe I wasn't the best dad, but I want to get better."

Although he writes letters to his girls, each one goes unanswered. Ruby said she's read all of the letters he's sent but doesn't want to write back.

"I don't really have anything to say," she said.

He is expected to be out by the end of this year and hopes his daughters will forgive him for being away.

"I believe my kids are very hurt right now," he said. "And I know it's my fault."

Ruby needs convincing.

"He's never really been a dad for us. He was always gone," she said. "So I don't know if he really loves us. I don't know, maybe he does a little."

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