The Problem

The Problem

Children who grow up in fatherless homes are 85% more at risk of becoming incarcerated – a  statistic that threatens our entire society, not just the innocent victims of incarceration.

2014-01-18 18.16.02_pt5The idea for Possum Talks was planted when an inmate’s wife made the statement: “I can adapt to my husband’s imprisonment because I must. What people don’t get is that it’s the children who suffer the most.”

While working with jail and prison inmates it became increasingly apparent that many dads have the desire to become a real father to their children and to minimize the damage done because of their mistakes, but most simply don’t know where to start or lack the skills to do so.

The theme of Possum Talks is based on an encounter Michael Buie had with a possum. One morning after a particularly brutal storm, he found himself face to snout with a baby possum who had taken refuge on his front porch. Michael’s attempt to rescue the little creature was met with snarls, hisses, baring of teeth and finally the proverbial “playing possum,” or in modern parlance, “Leave me alone. I don’t want your help.”

2014-01-18 22.08.26_pt5Nature vividly reminds us of how often we all are like possums. In our most threatening moments we put on a fearless face when we’re anything but; we bluster when we’re scared; and when all else fails, we attempt to appear dead to a potential rescuer. Many in the prison population have “little possums” – children who feel abandoned by their dads. And as children often do, they mistakenly reject the ones who disappoint them; the ones who still desire to love and protect them; the ones who want to be a strong presence in their lives, even while behind prison walls.

It’s human nature to parent as we were parented. And many inmates either grew up in fatherless homes or had dads with poor parenting skills. So, unfortunately, the cycle continues.

A Solution to the Problem
Possum Talks is a one-and-a-half day workshop for inmates who desire to evolve from simply being a dad to becoming a father in the truest sense of the word: one who gives advice, comfort and protection, even while behind prison walls. Possum Talks is based upon Christian concepts, with biblical illustrations throughout. However, attendance is not limited to those of the Christian faith.

Artist Keith_pt5Learning the importance of dealing with issues of forgiveness and making amends for wrongs committed sets the tone for the day. Creative tools for inexpensive ways to stay connected with their children provides a springboard for consistent contact. We address communication skills through teaching and role play. And practicing non-reactive ways to deal with rejection fortifies resolve for the possible negative responses to an inmate dad’s sincere and heartfelt efforts. Since teens with absent fathers are more at risk for pregnancy, STD’s and emotional scars from casual sex, the necessity of deliberate, open communication with their children about their sexual behavior is emphasized. No how-tos. Just why-nots. “Learn from my mistakes, not yours,” will be the groundwork for this sensitive issue.

Breakout sessions throughout the day provide time for each inmate’s verbal participation by addressing specific points from each topic. Role-play between leaders and inmates provides practical application of positive ways to interact with children of all ages.

We propose follow-up sessions facilitated by a unit’s designated volunteer to provide continuing encouragement and integration of the skills learned in the actual Possum Talks workshop.

“Without two parents, working together as a team, the child has more difficulty learning the combination of empathy, reciprocity, fairness and self-command that people ordinarily take for granted. If the child does not learn this at home, society will have to manage his behavior in some other way. He may have to be rehabilitated, incarcerated, or otherwise restrained. In this case, prisons will substitute for parents.”
SOURCE: Morse, Jennifer Roback. Parents or Prisons. Policy Review, 2003

Extra guards for the day     

A meeting place          

Outside volunteers



Possum Talks   McKinney,Texas 75070