Book aims to help children of prisoners

The OlympianNovember 30, 2006 

Nearly 7 million children are waiting for parents who are behind bars.

Theirs is the story South Sound therapist Linda Gaffney wanted to tell in her new fictional book, "My Daddy Does Good Things, Too!"

Gaffney, 59, of Olympia, said she hopes the book - which is geared to children ages 4 to 12 - will clear up many stereotypes and misunderstandings children have about prison life.

"This is something we don't much talk about," she said. "My hope was really that I would expose a culturally disadvantaged group, and kind of raise everybody's awareness about it."

Gaffney, a licensed therapist who works in human resources for the state Department of Corrections, wrote the self-published book in her free time - as a volunteer project. Proceeds from the book's sales will benefit the Read-to-Me program, where inmates record books on tape for their children at home.

The 55-page book was illustrated by former inmates Undra Dabney and Nickalas Goettling, who were recruited from the general population of the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

Gaffney said she didn't know what crimes the artists were incarcerated for, though they weren't offenses against children.

"They're both out now," she added. "They've been returned to the communi ty."

Both men drew on their own personal experiences for the book's illustrations, which took nearly 10 months to finish. They were allowed to meet once a week for two hours under supervision, Gaffney said.

Hirsh Diamant, a professor at The Evergreen State College who reviewed the book, said he was impressed with both the story and the artwork.

"I was very moved by the illustrations," said Diamant, who teaches art, language and culture. "Knowing who the illustrators are adds to the emotional charge of the book."

The story begins with twins Matt and Marcie answering their classmates' questions about their dad's experience in prison. It's a topic children are naturally curious about, Gaffney said.

"Kids don't know about prison, and they're just fascinated by it," she said. "They want to know what goes on there."

In the story, the twins learn they are not the only ones at their school who wait for, and worry about, someone behind bars. They try to help another child in the same situation.

Gaffney said she hopes the book will spur conversations about the corrections system in general, and strengthen bonds between inmates and their families.

"For kids, my message is that everybody makes mistakes - parents make mistakes, you make mistakes," she said. "And in our society, you can correct that. You can do better."

Buy the book

"My Daddy Does Good Things, Too!" by Linda Gaffney can be purchased for $10.99 at www.homeplacepress.com.

Lisa Pemberton writes for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-704-6871 or lpemberton@theolympian.com.

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