State DCYF honors Belknap County Corrections captain for work in keeping inmates in contact with their children
Published DateLACONIA — While their roles in reuniting children with their parents is different, Belknap County Corrections Captain Dave Berry and DCYF Supervisor Beverly Dubiel share a common goal — to never have to deal professionally with their clients again.
Berry is the second in command at the Belknap County Jail and Dubiel dels with children who have been removed from their parents custody.
Their common goal is reuniting children of incarcerated prisoners with their parents. And Berry's work in that area earned him the 2013 N.H. Division of Children, Youth and Family Services Exemplary Leadership Award.
Berry was instrumental in piloting the first county-level program of its type in New Hampshire by working with DCYF to make the supervised visitations possible.
"We've been asked to allow inmates to have contact with their children," Berry said, adding that until this year the answer has been, "Nah. We don't do that.
"But this year (meaning 2012) I said, 'Why not?'" he said.
"It's hard to have contact with children through a plate glass window and a telephone," said Dubiel from her Laconia office.
She and Berry said the circumstances surrounding the visits are case-specific — meaning each inmate must meet a certain set of criteria before being allowed the visit, which takes place in a space in the city set up by DCYF. The child is brought to the location by the person who has custody and the inmate is brought by an official to the location.
The visits are supervised but nevertheless, they are tangible and positive for both parent and child.
From Berry's point of view, the visits can be life-changing for the inmates.
"So far, we have had 12 inmates, including two men, participate and none of them have returned to jail," he said.
Berry said the inmate's punishment is being incarcerated for the amount of time that was determined by the court and part of the punishment is being deprived of seeing their children.
"But the children haven't done anything wrong," he said.
To participate in the visitation program, the inmate must take part in the requisite programs required by the jail, including parenting and nutrition classes, GED education classes, and, in the case of substance abuse, the appropriate drug or alcohol program. He or she must be of good behavior while incarcerated.
A violation of jail rules means no visitation and Berry said the people who participate are much more willing to go the extra mile while in jail to have the time with their children.
These reunification visits are huge," he said. "It's an emotional thing."
For Dubiel, the visitation with a parent can be as life-changing for a child – especially for the young ones. She said it's very hard for a child to understand why their parent is behind a glass wall and why they have to talk on the telephone.
When incarceration ends, Berry's role ends. When the child is returned to their parent there continues to be a number of programs for both of them but Dubiel said the DCYF roles typically ends after 12 months.
CUTLINE ( DAve Berry award) Beverly Dubiel of DCYF and Capt. Dave Berry of the Belknap County Department of Corrections in Dubiel's Laconia office. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)