SYLACAUGA — The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement is starting a “Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood” program this month.
The free program, funded by a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, addresses six components to becoming an effective father.
“We wanted to create a program not just to increase child support payments, but to focus on the whole person and create a healthier parent so we know the child’s life will be better,” said SAFE special services coordinator Lecia Whiteside.
SAFE is hosting a kickoff event for the program April 7 at American Legion Post 45 from noon-2 p.m.
The event, called “Egg-traordinary Fathers,” encourages a father or responsible male adult to bring their children for free food, games and prizes.
The 10-week, voluntary program begins April 17 from 6-8 p.m. at SAFE. Program components include healthy relationships, responsible parenting, economic stability, case management, program support and domestic violence.
Whiteside said each component comes into play in addressing the person as a whole.
“A lot of times, men feel like the system is against them,” she said. “We hear a lot about, ‘Why should I pay child support if I can’t see my children?’ We have a lot of information to share about how to work through these things to get visitation rights and meet other short and long-term goals.”
Fatherhood program outreach case manager Ollie Kates said the community needs a program that encourages fathers.
“We have got to inspire these fathers to be good dads, so we need to share with them how to communicate with their kids and their spouse,” Kates said. “This program will help them feel capable of doing that.”
Whiteside said communication is the key to healthy relationships.
“I really think this will work for them and they will actually want to have relationships with their children and significant other,” she said. “Regardless of whether you live with them or not, you still need a relationship with them.”
Program facilitator Fred Pearson said being a healthy father creates a domino effect by showing children how to be good parents in the future.
“We will talk a lot about morals and values, and we all have them,” Pearson said. “Even if you got sidetracked, there is no reason you can’t pick them back up and pass them on to your children.”
Whiteside said the program is also helpful for job readiness and economic stability.
“It has been proven that the highest reason for divorce is because of finances,” she said. “If we can teach them something about having and keeping jobs and using your money wisely, that will help them greatly.”
The program also gives assistance on case management, which involves setting parenting and communication goals, and program support.
“Program support is removing whatever barrier is in their way,” Whiteside said. “Sometimes the barrier is not being able to see their child, so we will lead them through the court system to earn that. If it is needing an ID to get a job, we will help with that.”
Kates and Pearson have been conducting the program already, visiting with local prisoners and work release participants. Kates said they have seen positive results from their efforts.
“We do this with the hopes that when they get released, they will carry this information with them,” he said. “Whether they have a family or may start one, they have to maintain those relationships and find a way to provide for them once they are out.”
Kates said they hope for great participation in the program.
“We are hoping for an abundance of fathers, and women are also welcome,” he said. “We have a lot of good information to share.”
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