Our Next show:

Information coming soon

Our Blog

Meet the father-son team that is changing the way parents reconnect with their children after prison

Out of The Ashes - Sunday, March 03, 2019

There is no shortage of stories in the news media about fatherless homes. Every day there is a new study detailing the negative impact on larger society on the number of growing families that don’t have a male presence in the home. However, little attention is paid to the realities behind the statistics, to the real-life devastation visited upon those whose fathers were never there to teach them the bare necessities of life. 

But one family is looking to change this. In their three act play “Out of the Ashes”, real-life father and son duo Coley Harris and Ahmarr Melton dive deep into the impact Harris’s absence had on both their lives. 

When Melton was 2 years old, his father was sent to prison. While they saw each other intermittently over the following years, they didn’t fully resume their relationship until 14 years later when Harris was released. To say that their relationship was strained is putting it mildly. 

As you can imagine, it was no easy task dealing with the pain of a near decade and a half long absence. There were just too many milestones missed along the way. And one of the most impactful lessons that Melton never received was learning how to shave.

He states the profundity of this during the play as he tells the audience, “When you were watching your father shave, I was cutting my throat.©” In that moment, one is forced to reckon with the image of a sad, lonely boy holding a blade to his throat, without anyone there to guide his hand to safety.

As most of the audience is generally comprised of men and boys who have been in the same predicament, most of them are aware of exactly how that feels. And it is this sense of connectedness that is at the core of the play; the kind of empathy that gives it its power. In that vein, “Out of the Ashes” creates a form of drama-therapy to give their audience the tools necessary to help navigate these difficult  situations and relationships.

These are the types of stories that the statics don’t show. The tales the news reels don’t run. The play highlights the central question that is never asked because the answer is presumed to be an impossibility: “What happens when the fathers come back?”

However, with more than 2 million children in America who have at least one parent in prison, it is a reality that cannot be ignored. It is this question that is the theme of “Out of the Ashes.” It is this question that Melton and Harris are using their own family to answer.

For these two, it seems as though the key to success in rebuilding their relationship was patience and consistency. Initially, Melton was understandably reticent to let his father back into his life—particularly at such a tender age. However, Harris rightfully took the lead role in attempting to repair their bond and made a standing weekly date with his son at the park. And it was during these weekly walks that that wall built over 14 years of incarceration began to chip away. And slowly the love that it was shielding began to pour through. 

It was also during these walks that the idea for “Out of the Ashes” began to germinate. And on January 3, 2015, “Out of the Ashes,” the play premiered to an audience of 200+ people. As of 2019, the duo has helped hundreds of families begin to heal after being torn apart by incarceration.

By telling their story publicly, Harris and Melton put faces to those suffering under this national crisis. And in their healing were able to offer up what those in their situation want most—the hope of reconciliation.

For more information or to book Out Of The Ashes, please contact 302-507-4623 or click here.

The One Resource Grayson County Detention Center Uses to Open Dads' Hearts and Minds to Group-Based Fatherhood Programs

Out of The Ashes - Thursday, November 15, 2018

Facilitator Certification Training

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I regularly interview staff and volunteers in organizations that use National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) programs and other resources. These interviews often provide insight into creative uses of our programs and resources that I share in this blog to help organizations become even more effective in serving dads.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Morris Basham. Morris facilitates InsideOut Dad®—NFI’s evidence-based program for incarcerated fathers—at the Grayson County Detention Center, a facility in Leitchfield, Kentucky that houses federal and state inmates.

As Morris and I talked about InsideOut Dad®, he told me he uses another NFI resource for incarcerated dads, Out of the Ashes: Where a Seed Finds Life, to enhance his delivery of the program.

Out of the Ashes Facilitator Certification TrainingIf you’re not familiar with Out of the Ashes, it’s a powerful 32-minute film—a one-act play, of sorts—that generates dialogue and a healing process among incarcerated dads. Organizations can also use it with the children and loved ones (e.g. moms of dads’ children and dads’ relatives) impacted by a dad’s incarceration. It includes a Facilitated Discussion Guide with questions that help incarcerated fathers, their children, and family members explore the issues, thoughts, and feelings caused by a dad’s incarceration. (Click here and here to read two posts in this blog about this film.)

Morris uses Out of the Ashes to provide dads who express interest in joining an InsideOut Dad® group with a taste of what it’s like to participate in a group-based program and, most important, the emotionally intimate environment the program creates. Morris says that the discussion the film generates helps dads understand the commitment they must make to get the most out of the program.

Demand for InsideOut Dad® is high at the Grayson County Detention Center. Unlike running a fatherhood program for dads in a community, recruitment is rarely an issue in a corrections setting. Facilitators of InsideOut Dad® report that they often have more demand than they can handle. In many facilities, there is a process of promotion, application, and selection into the program. Dads not selected to participate end up on a waiting list and must either wait for a new group(s) to start or go through the entire process again.

Morris has a well-developed and tested selection process that he’s enhanced with Out of the Ashes. The process to select dads to participate:

  • Starts four weeks prior to the start of several InsideOut Dad® groups.
  • The facility posts in cellblocks the availability of the program.
  • The posts inform dads that they can apply to participate.
  • After a review of the applications, Morris selects 70-80 dads to participate in the program and divides them into three “orientation sessions.”

Each 1.5-hour session starts with dads watching the film. A 1-hour discussion ensues that Morris facilitates using the discussion guide. Morris says that the film generates such an in-depth and intimate discussion that he typically has to abruptly end the session. The film shows the dads what participating in InsideOut Dad® is like and the impact their incarceration has on their children.

After the orientation sessions, some dads choose to not continue in the program. This self-selection leaves Morris with dads who enter the first program session with “eyes wide open.” A bonus is the orientation session makes dads more comfortable early on in the program with being transparent and honest with themselves and other dads about who they are and their relationships with their children and children’s primary caregiver(s). 

Whether you use InsideOut Dad® or a 24/7 Dad® program in a corrections setting and have a selection process to identify dads to participate, use of Out of the Ashes as an orientation session is a fantastic idea worth exploring. You can also integrate an “Out of the Ashes Session” into one of our programs, as some other facilitators have done (e.g. between the program’s transition from a focus on the man to a focus on the father). It’s also useful as a stand-alone resource in corrections and non-corrections settings for generating discussion about the impact of incarceration on dads, children, and loved ones.

Have you considered using Out of the Ashes as an orientation session or integrating it into one of our programs?

How effectively do you use (e.g. combine) NFI’s programs and resources?

Out of the Ashes: U of D Student Impact

Out of The Ashes - Sunday, January 07, 2018

University of Delaware Student Impact: How Out of the Ashes Touched Our Class.

November 2017

Coley Harris and Ahmarr Melton presented to the Dr. Ann Aviles's students in her Family Studies and Human Development class. The students responded with a warm video impact statement. We are thankful for your support.

Come out and witness this powerful presentation on January 18, 2017 at Stubbs Elementary School


Making Fatherhood Popular

Out of The Ashes - Thursday, November 17, 2016

This post came from a mission that I have which is changing the world through making fatherhood popular. I think a lot of people don't fully understand the importance of this role and take it for granted. I want to use Out of The Ashes as a platform to increase awareness and change the dialogue around the topic.

September 28th, 2016

Out of The Ashes - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Just Grateful

Out of The Ashes - Friday, September 16, 2016

Top 5 Things That New Dads Get Wrong!

Out of The Ashes - Monday, September 12, 2016

Being a Dad is not for the faint at heart. Your children will test your grit. Our children are masters at pushing buttons and pulling on heart strings. Many parents learn how to put on that tough skin and weather the storm of a teenager, but what about the new parent?  Here are a few tips for the new parent, whether it be through a blended family, first child or re-entering your child's life.

These 5 easy tips will put you light years ahead.
  1. Don't try to be your child's friend. I know we want to hear all of their little secrets and walk them through the pains of life, but a healthy separation will keep the relationship in perspective. After all, does a friend tell a child that they are grounded?
  2. Give a child structure. Even with attempting to allow our children to express their autonomy we must still give them some structure, a foundation from whence to spread their wings.
  3. Share some of your short comings. It is ok to be imperfect. Sharing a failure will allow for children learn from our lessons and not be afraid to take healthy risk.  
  4. Be compassionate. Just because you are the DAD does not mean you have to be iron. Children look for security and nurturing from both parents.
  5. Lead by example. The do as I say not as I do days are gone. The entire world is going to form an opinion about us by what they see, why would our children be any different.

I hope that these tips have proven to be helpful. Let's stay in touch. Please share some of your cool parenting tips and experiences on our page. Thanks. 

Beauty in the struggle

Out of The Ashes - Sunday, September 04, 2016

I can remember walking home, to my cousin/brother's house in WIlmington, Delaware at 11pm from 8th street to 38th street. I had to be back to work by 7am. I was never late. I can remember asking people to allow for me to volunteer at their youth programs, so that I could get into the field where I was passionate. They blew me off, lied to me and spun me.Then Mike Barbieri gave me a shot!

I love this process! I love the growth through the struggle. It took spiritual enlightenment to for me to understand that the gatekeepers knew not what they did by trying to keep the message from the people. It was yet another piece of the "master plan unfurling before my eyes, manifest and real."

Thank the Most High for this journey as we move forward. As I left my son this morning after our walk I experienced a familiar feeling. It is a cataclysmic mental shift that takes place before the breakthrough. Oh yes, a familiar feeling. I often tell our children on the inside to shift that energy and do not allow yourself to be denied ANYTHING ON GOD'S CREATION of the good.

Did I tell you that I love the struggle?

Be firm, be consistent, be present

Out of The Ashes - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Children have a knack for doing some of the most confounding things. Some days you pour out all of your wisdom from
decades of successes and failures only to have them totally disregard everything you said. IT HURTS!

We want to be able to guide our children and make their decisions for them at times. How did that work for us when
we were teenagers and young adults.

We can only guide and stick to our principles and proven practices.
We can only be the same person day in and day out, unwavering in our support (however that may look).
Most importantly we must be present in our child's life. Even as they get older they will still turn to you and your voice should be there.

"They told me to be his friend, but I did not listen"

Out of The Ashes - Friday, July 29, 2016

When I first came home a lot of people told me to be my son's friend. I didn't listen to them. I knew that in that critical stage of my son's life that he needed his father.

​Unfortunately a lot of parents are making the mistake of trying to be their children's friends. Our are children our children look for guidance and structure from us. They do not look for the type of guidance and acceptance that they that they seek from their friends. Our children need for a level of support that surpasses friendship. They do not respect a parent who is more concerned with friendship than parenting. The contempt is forthcoming. 

​Ahmarr and I have grown our relationship under the most unlikely of circumstances. I think the uniqueness of our situation has made our relationship stronger. We continue to grow and to learn from one another. Even with coming in to his life in earnest at such a late point, there were/are still many lessons that I can teach him.  I am so thankful that we had the courage to make an attempt. I can not imagine how life would have been without him in my life. 

​Yes, they told me to be his friend at first.......But I did not listen.

Recent Posts


Contact Us For More Information

We would be honored to bring this powerful and relevant presentation to your organization.
Please feel free to contact them with any questions about the power and impact