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Up Center encourages responsible fathers

Published 9:12pm Friday, November 26, 2010

Recognizing the growing amount of data showing that children in fatherless households suffer negative consequences throughout their lives, administrators at The Up Center are starting a new program they hope will encourage responsible fatherhood.

The program will help provide fathers with the skills and resources to help create or maintain bonds with their children, whether they live in the same home or not.

“If we’re going to honor our mission to build stronger families, we cannot glaze past the importance of a father’s role,” said Andrea Long, vice president of counseling services at The Up Center. “In society, we’ve become so used to absent fathers that we haven’t spent enough time focusing on the fact that what they bring to the table is not replaceable, no matter how strong the mother is.”

The Up Center is offering three 13-week “Responsible Fatherhood” courses for custodial and non-custodial fathers, ages 16-30, in Western Tidewater.

The first 13-week course begins Dec. 2 and will meet weekly from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Up Center’s offices in Suffolk, 109 Clay St.

At the last class, both parents are invited for a session on how to get along “for children’s sake.”

The course also will be held March 17 to June 9 and June 30 to Sept. 22.

Administrators have wanted to begin a course for fathers for the past three years and recently received funding from the Obici Healthcare Foundation to make their ideas a reality.

The course will focus on many of the challenges of an active fatherhood, how to overcome them and the importance of the relationship.

“Dads don’t realize it, but they have intrinsic aptitudes that contribute to a child’s development,” Young said. “Their relationship with their child affects their development psychologically, socially, academically and their choices later in life. It’s much more than providing financial assistance.”

For example, there have been studies shown that if a mother is given a baby nine times, she will typically hold the baby the same way each time. If a father is given a baby nine times, he will hold the baby in a different position each time, Young said.

It teaches the child, even at that young age, that they are safe and can trust their father despite the fact that things are changing, Young said. Dads also typically stand farther away from their children, which can teach a child that even though they’re not as physically close to them, they are safe and can go do things. It helps empower the child, Young added.

“Children who don’t have dads are often left with a void,” Young said. “They have to reconcile the impossible and ask the question, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”

There are several challenges that can preclude a father from feeling he can participate in a relationship, Young said. They include not knowing to how to communicate with a child, not knowing age appropriate activities, finances and even mothers and grandparents who do not welcome his participation.

“We understand that there are a lot of complications that can make it difficult to have a relationship with a child,” said Douglas Taylor, one of the group facilitators for the course. “We want to provide them with solutions.”

Other topics that will be covered include anger management and normal development of a child.

“It’s positive for the community,” said Young. “An active father means strong children who turn into healthy adults that lead to a healthier community. We want to let dads know we support them and want to help them build on what they naturally have.”

Call 622-7017, extension 112 to pre-register or 351-0692 for more information on the courses.

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