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Preparing Teens for Fatherhood with Boyz2Dads

The following is a guest post by Shawn O'Keefe, Youth Programs Specialist for Newport News Department of Human Services. If you would like to guest blog for us, email here.

As a Youth Program Specialist, it is my job to provide prevention, education, leadership, and youth development programming and opportunities to young people in the middle and high school age range.boyz2dads blog pic

One of the curricula I researched was the Boyz2Dads™ program, which I have been using now for the last three years. I like the Boyz2Dads™ program for many reasons:

  • It has a pregnancy prevention component focused on young boys instead of girls
  • It is computer based
  • It allows for discussion about the roles/responsibilities of fathers, as well as the characteristics that make good fathers

I have had the opportunity to implement the program several different ways and in various venues. I have facilitated the program in a high school, at a Boys and Girls Club, a middle school summer enrichment program, and inside the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility. Through trial and error, I have found that the best practices for the most effective implementation of Boyz2Dads is for the group to be limited to no more than 10-15 participants; individual access to a computer; headphones for each participant; and scheduling the program in six 45 minute to one hour sessions once per week.

Interestingly, I have had the most success with the young men in the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility, which was really a big surprise. I thought of any of the young men I was working with that this group would think the program was “whack” or “corny” or just a waste of time. I have found quite the opposite. These young men don’t want to wait for me to come back the following week to complete the next level-they want to complete all six levels that day! They say, “The graphics aren’t as good as the Playstation or XBOX games, but the levels are interesting” and they love the discussion afterwards. That’s right…a group of 10-15 teen boys that I sometimes have a hard time getting to shut up!

As a single father of two sons, it is a joy for me to see these young men I work with start to redefine what it means to be a dad and a man.  You hear them say things such as, “When I’m a dad, I’m gonna make sure my kids know I love them,” or, “I used to think it was gay for a man to kiss another man, but if you really love your dad or son, there’s nothing wrong with kissing them,” and, “My kids might not get everything they want, but I’m going to be there for them and spend time with them.” 

One of our funding sources was impressed with the work I was doing with the young men and the Boyz2Dads program. He had been reading my reports and wanted to know exactly how and what I was doing. After speaking to my Supervisor and her telling him that I have impacted 170 young men who have all shown an increase in the knowledge of the impact fathers have on their children and families and what characteristics make a good father, he asked, “How would you like some more money so you can offer some more fatherhood programs?” 

WHAT!??! More money to make more of an impact!? You know we said, "YES"!

Photo credit here.

Creating Change in Your Organization or Community

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One of the biggest challenges in creating change in any organization is getting the right people onboard at the right time.  Helping your organization or community develop a passion for reaching fathers is no different. 

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell provides a great way to understand who you need onboard in order for responsible fatherhood to spread like wildfire.  He describes three categories of people: connectors, mavens, and salesmen.  

Connectors are people who know a lot of people.

Mavens accumulate knowledge and to whom people go if they have questions.

Salesman are people that can sell absolutely anything.

So the next time you are trying to put together either an internal team or need to assemble a group of community leaders to address fatherhood issues in your community, make sure you have an equal representation of these three categories of people.  You will increase your probability of having a much greater impact and moving closer to a tipping point for responsible fatherhood!

Photo credit: http://ruthcatchen.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/change/

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