This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
All parents need a little encouragement now and then. MCCOY has written about maternal health and support here. This month, we’d like to show support for fathers.
“No one is born a ‘good parent,’” said Brian Carter, director of Dad’s Inc. and educator for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. “All parents must commit to education, training and improvement. American parents must put their children first, instead of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and pursuing ‘me first’ goals.”
Dad’s Inc. provides prevention education and support services to fathers and their families. In addition, Dad’s Inc. offers healthy relationship and human trafficking awareness trainings to hundreds of teens.
According to Carter, many positive fatherhood practices start young. He said that our community needs to “encourage our youth to pursue healthy relationships and treat the opposite sex with respect and dignity” and “help them vow to create a better world for the generation coming after them.”
Ian Albright, marketing specialist for the Fathers and Families Center, said that many parenting habits are cyclical and pass to successive generations.
“Fathers set an example of how a man should be,” said Albright. “Children whose fathers are absent, or who have fathers who set bad examples, often struggle in life. Those children then become fathers themselves and the cycle repeats resulting in generational poverty.”
The Fathers and Families Center helps dads develop tools to overcome barriers that prevent them from being actively involved in their children’s lives. Albright said that the Center can help fathers in need of parenting skills, education, employment, counseling and mentorship, all for no cost.
Another local organization, the Indiana Fatherhood Coalition, provides resources like trainings and events for dads and organizations, develops helpful new programs and services and brings public awareness to the importance of fathers and the services that can help them be positive parents.
“We believe that the vast majority of dads want to be good fathers,” said Jeff Newnam, executive director of the Indiana Fatherhood Coalition. “The obstacles that they have to overcome to reach this goal include societal pressures, lack of understanding of the importance of their role and, quite honestly, not knowing how to be a good father – in part because it may not have been something they [had growing up]. They had no role model and therefore are unsure how to be a good father.”
Just as we value mothers, our society also needs to value fathers. We can show our appreciation and support in a number of ways.
“Publically celebrate community fathers,” Carter advised. “Provide mentoring for those families that have no father figures, and support fathers that are returning from incarceration.”
“Community members can help by supporting local organizations that assist struggling fathers,” said Albright, noting that the Fathers and Families Center accepts financial and clothing donations and also looks for volunteers to help in their facility.
Newnam said that it is important to engage youth in the conversation about their interactions with their own fathers, and how they can be good fathers themselves in the future. He also called on community members to provide opportunities for meaningful father/child connections and “to keep banging this drum: being an involved father is critical to your children.”
To any struggling fathers, Carter has some words of advice.
“Commit to daily improvement,” he said. “Get a mentor. Surround [yourself] with positive people. Avoid negative and addictive lifestyles. Be conscious of societal pitfalls, and develop a recovery plan for mistakes made.”