Note: This story was updated August 29, 2013.
Two organizations came together last week to help community leaders better serve fathers in their area.
First 5 Alameda County and the Alameda County Public Health Department launched “Fathers Corps,” a county-wide team of male service providers who will be trained over the coming year to strengthen families by helping dads engage in the care and upbringing of their children.
About 25 to 30 men who work for family service providers, ranging from church groups to mentorship programs, will learn best practices in equipping fathers to participate with their families.
“The overall goal is to improve the lives of children by bringing kids together with their dads and make dads better dads,” said Kevin Bremond, community grants initiative program officer at First 5 Alameda County.
“If you can get dads to build that relationship early on in a child’s life, there is a higher likelihood he will be there for the long haul,” said Bremond.
First 5 and the Alameda County Public Health Department together spend about $12,000 to provide 10 training sessions to the Fathers Corps. The sessions will help the male service providers counsel fathers in their community with issues such as incarceration, child support, and other things that may make full parental participation difficult.
Session topics will also address paternal involvement such as child development, maternal and paternal depression, nutrition and wellness, school readiness, temperament and others.
The new group is an exclusively male collaboration. Bremond, who is a father of three, says the intention is to make sure dads feel as comfortable as possible to address any challenges.
“In a lot of the studies we’ve done, a lot of times guys need a safe space to talk about male issues and to talk about things that dads face,” said Bremond.
In order to be part of corps, the members must attend each of the monthly trainings, participate in any evaluation training, and have their supervisors provide a signature acknowledging their commitment to the program.
Upon completion, the corps members will receive a certificate naming them Alameda County “Father Engagement Specialists,” and in June 2014, they will have a showcase of the training and what they learned. First 5 hopes that through participation in the program more service providers in the county, who serve majority black and Latino fathers, will help create more “father friendly” services throughout Alameda County.
“This program is important because its important for dads to be there and to understand the challenges their kids will face if they are not there,” said Bremond.
The corps is one of a number of initiatives in the Oakland, CA area that target men and boys in the community. Last year the 100 Black Men of The Bay Area Community Charter School opened specifically for black youth, and there is now department at the Oakland Unified School District focusing solely on helping African-American males.