When dads graduate from your fatherhood program, it's a big deal. It should be treated as such. After reading how "Dads Matter Too" in New Haven, Connecticut, created a successful graduation event, I had to tell you about it.
This program involved several local partners to make their graduation a success. Read this post and consider how you can make your next fatherhood program graduation special.
The following post originally appeared here at the New Haven Independent.
Accepting a certificate of achievement in Scantlebury Park recently, Kendall Files was hoping to start a new legacy for his family.
Files, 26, brought his two children on stage for completing 24/7 Dad®, the parenting program offered by the New Haven Family Alliance.
Files was one of 18 fathers who received the same certificate at an inaugural New Haven “Dads Matter Too” event in the park. John Rogers (pictured above), a supervisor at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and director of the event, said the purpose of the campaign is to encourage and celebrate fatherhood in New Haven. The “Dads Matter Too” campaign, which started in 2013, has hosted similar events in Waterbury and other cities across Connecticut, and Rogers wanted to bring it to New Haven this year.
“We want to promote dads to be more involved with their children’s education, to be providers in different capacities…to be more involved with their children’s lives,” Rogers said. He said he hopes that the event will raise awareness about available resources for fathers in New Haven who are struggling to remain involved with their families.
For Files, a single parent whose own father left when he was 5 years old, the 24/7 Dad® program helped him get on his feet and provide for his two young children.
“I was in a bad spot in my life, and I was just ready to give up…I didn’t know how to deal with a little girl,” Files said. After taking advantage of the New Haven Family Alliance’s fatherhood classes and job assistance program, he was able to secure a job at a Toys ’R Us in Waterbury and feels better equipped to care for his children: “I’m gonna make sure [they] have the best time on this Earth.”
What "Dads Matter Too" Did that You Should Too
While giving dads who complete the 24/7 Dad® program a certificate sends a positive message, with a little extra work, you may be able to pull off something much bigger for your next program graduation.
Remember, you're in this for the long-term, so making an event of graduation can help with future recruitment and retention for your fatherhood program.
Here are a few things The New Haven Family Alliance got right with their program graduation.
1. They created an event for the entire family, not just the dads. This took work and extra volunteers, but once you schedule an event date you might be amazed at what happens. If you build it, they will come...
2. They networked with local partners. Okay, "they" may not come if you simply schedule a date and time for an event. But notice that New Haven Family Alliance did what we call in 24/7 Dad® "create productive relationships with community-based organizations."
New Haven Family Alliance was one of dozens of organizations that showed their support for this graduation. Also present in Scantlebury were...
- ’R Kids, which offers reunification programs for vulnerable children and parents,
- the Family Centered Services of Connecticut,
- My Father, My Son, a youth counseling agency for children with incarcerated parents,
- The Greek Olive provided pizza from its truck,
- New Haven police officers, who sat perched in the nearby dunk tank.
Just reading about all of the different support here gets me excited. Imagine what can happen when your program and your fathers interact on a positive level with local businesses, community groups, and even local law enforcement. What? Could this happen in your city?
3. They created a media opportunity that presented the program and fathers in a positive light. I don't mean to get all markety on you, but this event is a perfect example of creating an opportunity for folks to interact and talk—beyond your session walls. If the New Haven Fatherhood Program didn't create this event, the above news story wouldn't get written, and I may have never known about this event. See how this works?
Speaking about the importance of this graduation event, Ken Harris, the director of the New Haven Healthy Start Association and the keynote speaker for the event, said, “It’s not about fathers as add-ons to the equation...we have to get to the point where dads know that their worth to their families is priceless.”
I'm excited to see how the New Haven Family Alliance made their graduation a special event. Imagine doing something special for your dads at the next fatherhood program graduation. It's a great way to bring families and the community together around a worthy cause.
Are you a dad looking for help or interested in volunteering for a local fatherhood program? Please visit our Fatherhood Program Locator™ to find programs and resources in your community.