Meet the Fathers Joseph Shaw
In 2011, I was 30 years old sitting in the Metropolitan Detention Center, MDC. I was convicted on three felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. I had spent a year in MDC awaiting reinstatement into the drug court program. I knew I had to make some changes and fast. I was struggling with multiple addictions and a lot of life decisions. I had to get sober and do well on drug court or I would be facing 8.5 years in prison (4.5 years for my charges and 4 years for being a habitual offender). I was released from MDC under the condition that I complete 18 months of Drug court. I made a promise to myself that I was going to make the next 30 years count.
During my year in MDC, I thought a lot about my son and I knew that I had to be a man in order to raise a man. When the time was right I wanted to be able to tell him “I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I come with a lot of baggage, but I will take care of you and be the best man and father I can be”. I wanted to be able to make sure that my actions could match my words. I took the opportunity to join the Responsible Fatherhood Program that was being offered through PB&J Family Services. The Responsible Fatherhood Program gave me the opportunity to gain parenting skills, life skills, and on the job training once I was released. Through the program I met my Parent Reentry Specialist who helped me with counseling, case management, and really became a strong support on my road to being a better man.
When I was released from MDC, I started working at Fathers Building Futures which provides on the job training for men like myself. I had never really been a part of something before. I never played sports, I didn’t do well in school, so it was a new experience to be welcomed and accepted into Fathers Building Futures. I had people that I barely knew that cared about me more than I cared about myself.
While I was in the Drug Court Program I met my wife, Kayleigh. She too was struggling with maintaining her sobriety after a 10 year addiction. We became each other’s support system and have been married for the past 2 years. I have been sober for 4 years now and Kayleigh has been sober for 2. We have started our own family with our daughter Destani. This year I had the opportunity to bring my son to stay with me for the summer. I brought him to the worksite and introduced him to my coworkers and friends. It was a proud moment to be able to show him the work I do and how I provide for him. This was also the first year that I was able to buy his school supplies without any help. Being able to buy my son’s school supplies, school clothes, and spend an entire summer with him- getting to know him sober, introducing him to people that have helped me better myself so that he can get the best of me.
This program has been a blessing to all of us. It has become a second family. My family is a handful of people including I have my wife, my kids, my mom and dad, my sister, my nana, and mother in law. That’s why also having this place with people that genuinely care about me and my well-being is so important to me. I don’t have everything I want but I have everything I need. I have accepted that my addiction will always be a part of me and that it doesn’t get easier but you get used it. I have so much to be grateful for and I work hard every day to maintain it.
I have had opportunities that would have never been possible if I would not have been in this program. I have met the mayor and county commissioners. I have been on T.V., telling my story and have even gone to legislative sessions to work on passing bills. For instance, I worked side by side with young women united, House Representative Alonzo Baldonado, and Senator Bill O’Neil on Senate Bill 583 “Ban the Box”. My family and I were even selected to attend The Prisoner’s Family Conference in Dallas, TX this year. These opportunities have been an honor and a privilege. They have also motivated me to consider a future in substance abuse counseling, mentorship opportunities, and continued work in nonprofit programs.
Working in the Program
I started at Fathers Building Futures working 20 hours a week and making minimum wage. I dedicated myself to this program and have worked hard to become the Woodshop Supervisor. I now get the opportunity to supervise men that were just like me, who are struggling to better themselves and need support. I have the responsibility of properly training them in the woodshop to ensure safety and provide skills that can be utilized outside of Fathers Building Futures which will help them get steady employment.
On the job training programs like Custom Woodwork, Mobile Power washing, and auto detail were originally ran by volunteers from the community. This is such a unique work environment that it was decided to hire from within and skill up some of the fathers that showed integrity and dedication. Because we know each other and respect each other it has worked out for new fathers that come in to have an understanding work environment that helps them reintegrate into society. That’s why I say we are like a family.
The work can be stressful at times especially with the variety of personalities that work together. It helps us decide what we can do help individuals make changes for success. If I see a lack of focus I will redirect them and remind them that when they are here it is about work and we can talk about personal stuff off the clock. I remind them that this business and its integrity cannot be jeopardized. If they are struggling I encourage them to seek the help they need. We are working hard to build this place so when I see these men succeed after completing this program and they come back with their heads held high, that’s priceless to me. This is what I love to do. This is where my heart is at. I want to see this program be sustainable and our woodshop business to be a part of that.