Thousands of Oklahoma children have one or more parents in prison. Now, some of those fathers are getting a chance to connect with their children thanks to a new video project.
Cheri Fuller is the director of Oklahoma's Messages Project, a program started in 1999 that expanded to Oklahoma just this year.
"This is really all about re-connecting the children and the parents," Fuller said. "Children who have an incarcerated parent often feel unloved, left behind, they feel forgotten."
The project allows a parent to talk directly with his or her child, by recording a 15-minute on-camera message. Parents are encouraged to praise their children, read books to them, and even sing to them.
The Messages Project visited Cushing's Cimarron Correctional Center on Monday.
Brian Downing's daughter was a toddler when he went to prison. She'll start college next fall. He chose not to read but to use the time to tell his daughter how proud he was of her accomplishments. He also took full responsibility for their separation.
"I made bad choices, I made bad decisions," said Downing. "It doesn't mean that I love my child any less. It doesn't mean that I love my family any less."
"We piloted it in May, the Department of Corrections really liked the program," said Fuller. "They saw that it helped the offenders and helped the children."
Oklahoma's Messages Project only began in May, with events on Mother's Day and Father's Day, but has expanded now to visiting eight different correctional facilities this Christmas.