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A Helping Hand: FOCUS looks to build programs for fathers

Martinsville Bulletin - 6/18/2017

MARTINSVILLE ? This area has several programs to help mothers, but fathers' needs are ignored.

That's Mable Finney's belief ? and she's ready to change that. However, such an effort would require men ? some to advise her and help plan the programs, and others to benefit from them.

Finney is the executive director of FOCUS on Youth/CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates). The agency runs out of an office in the West Piedmont Development Center. FOCUS on Youth/CASA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that recruits, screens, trains and supports community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in court proceedings.

Finney said that the more a father is involved in a child's life, the less likely the child will be to have troubles. To that end, FOCUS on Youth is beginning the Fatherhood Engagement Program.

"This all comes out of what I see in court," she said.

Research shared by the National Fatherhood Initiative shows that children who grow up with involved fathers benefit in many ways. Emotionally, they are less likely to have motional and behavioral problems, to be aggressive or to have mood disorders. They are healthier; they are less sexually active and seven times less likely to become pregnant as a teenager; and they feel safer and more confident. They are less likely to use drugs or alcohol or to suffer from depression. They also perform better in school, are less likely to be poor and tend to keep out of trouble.

The mission of the Fatherhood program is to transform, equip and prepare men to be engaged fathers, and the vision is for every child to grow up with an involved, responsible and committed father.

Finney said she wants to help empower fathers "to speak up for themselves and share what they see in the lives of their children. Let's see if we can turn some of these other behaviors around."

Many men are mistaken in not realizing how important they are to their children, Finney said: "They have so much to give.

"If you have a man who speaks into the life of a boy, he's more apt to listen than when we (as women) speak," she said.

To learn

The Fatherhood Engagement Program is funded by a grant from the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation. The program will use the "24/7 Dad" curriculum.

Fathers who go through the program would take six class sessions: Family History ? What It Means to Be a Man; Showing and Handling Feelings ? Communications; Men's Health and Children's Growth; The Father's Role and Discipline; Getting Involved ? Learn to Co-Parent; and Dads and Work.

Each man who completes the program would receive a certificate which could be used in court to show his intent to be a better father.

When the program was first announced, only three fathers expressed interest. The group needed between five to 10 to operate, so now Finney is trying for a second time to drum up some interest.

Participation in the Fatherhood Engagement Program is free. For more information, call Finney at 403-5691. The FOCUS on Youth office is at 22 E. Church St., Martinsville, Room 324.

To help

To make that happen and more, FOCUS also needs the involvement of men behind the scenes. FOCUS has an advisory committee of six men, but Finney hopes to add more to the group.

The members are Art Ward, Paul Farrar, Steve Keyser, Michael Palmer, Marshall Thomas and Harvey Taylor. An ideal number for the group would be 12, Finney said.

Having a dozen on the committee, she said, would assure that at least six would be able to come to each meeting or event. Because of their work schedules, it's neither feasible nor expected for them to be available for each gathering.

The advisory committee would meet two or three times a year, Finney said, "to refresh or come up with new ideas."

The group of men would advise her on "how to reach dads; what are some of the issues they see in the community; how they see themselves in the fatherhood community; how important was the father" in their lives.

They also may help plan and staff some community events, she said. "I want it to be a community-driven program."

The men on the advisory committee would not be the teachers of the course, she said, but would be welcome to teach any particular session which interests them. They also would be not required to, but welcomed to, give a talk or write an article on a fatherhood topic of interest.

FOCUS has created a YouTube account to provide locally produced videos, called Dad Talks and done in the style of TED Talks, about fatherhood issues. Michael Palmer of NCI has agreed to videotape the talks, Finney said.

Any men interested in giving a Dad Talk or joining the advisory committee should call Finney at 403-5691.


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