Parenting classes focus on father's role

Feb. 16, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

The Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority (DCEA) recently started another cycle of its fatherhood classes, which focus on improving fathers' involvement in parenting.

The free Fathering Connection classes — part of the Team Dad series, offered through the federally funded, DCEA-sponsored Responsible Fatherhood program — are held Mondays from 6-9 p.m., ending on March 25.

The classes are in the style of group sessions, in which a coordinator focuses discussion among the dads in attendance, with topics ranging from working with the child's mother to children's growth.

"We want the guys to talk about things they don't normally talk about," Responsible Fatherhood Director Richard Beaty said. "We try to create an environment where it's really easy to talk about what's important to them — how to be a good parent, how to communicate with the mother of their children, and how to be a better dad for their children."

Fathering Connection classes take curriculum from the 24/7 Dad program developed by the National Fatherhood Initiative.

"It's research-based, well-received, has good credentials and a lot of people are using that," Beaty said.

Because the classes target young, low-income fathers, they also offer assistance in obtaining employment, or better employment, through things like resume assistance and help with job-searching.

"We really want it to be more than just, here's a list of jobs in your area and good luck," Beaty said. "We want it to be more active."

The participants are also encouraged to talk about issues in their lives that they may need further help with. Coordinators do what they can to connect fathers with various resources.

"If they're having an issue with housing or something, we try to hook them up with ways that help with those more pressing needs," Beaty said. "We call that Life-Links to community resources."

Although a certain demographic makes up most participants, Beaty said any and all dads are welcome to attend, even non-traditional fathers.

"The family comes in many shapes and sizes these days," Beaty said. "If you're the father figure, or your girlfriend has children, you know, really any dad or dad figure that's in need of employment or parenting advice, we would love to talk to them."

The program began last May, when DCEA realized it would be a good fit for the East Tennessee region, given the area's demographics and the limited number of parenting programs for men.

"We feel like men need to realize the importance of fatherhood, and we want to encourage them to take that role seriously, and to give them some tools so that they can be effective as parents," Beaty said. "So we try to give them an opportunity to do that well. It's engaging them, encouraging them and enabling them to be the best father they can be."

The first class was Monday, but Beaty said it's not necessary to attend the first session, and program coordinators will work with fathers' schedules if they can't attend during the regular hours.

"We don't want to be a burden," Beaty said. "We want to be the answer."

Coordinators prefer that anyone who's interested in attending the classes call ahead so they know how many people to expect. For more information, call Sherry Price at 304-9301.

rhargett@themountainpress.com