One young man, court-ordered to attend the Fatherhood Initiative and Employment Prep Services with the Jasper Area Family Services Center, had his doubts. But during the 12-week course, he learned the importance of being a good father to his daughter.
“The Fatherhood Initiative in Walker County has truly made an impact on my life. I would recommend anyone with children to attend this program.”
What a great testimony from Jasper Area Family Services Center (JAFSC), in Jasper, Alabama! The 12-week course the dad mentioned is NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program. The center has offered these classes for about 10 years now. On a recent call to the center, I had the privilege of speaking with Saderia Mormon, the new Coordinator of the Fatherhood Initiative and Motherhood Initiative.
Motherhood Initiative, I asked? Saderia advised me of the work they do with both parents, both individually in classes like 24/7 Dad® for the dads and now, for the last 4 years or so, Understanding Dad™. I had to ask, why did you choose to also use Understanding Dad™?
She explained that with referrals from family or drug courts, DFS, etc., many of the dads ordered into the program would ask, “Why, if we have to learn about them (the moms), why don’t they have to learn about us?!” Good question, she thought!
And so, about 4 years ago, JAFSC saw the need to work with the moms around father involvement. They started out offering NFI’s Mom as Gateway™ Booster Session, a downloadable workshop that helps break down barriers between mothers and fathers by addressing what is known as Maternal Gatekeeping—when a mother’s beliefs about a father, as well as her own behaviors, hinder a father’s involvement. The session facilitates helpful discussions and efforts toward co-parenting.
As these classes continued, JAFSC saw more clearly the need to have a formal moms’ program parallel the fathers’ program, so they chose Understanding Dad™. This unique, 8-week program helps mothers improve the relationships they have with fathers, for the benefit of their children. It helps mothers better understand the importance of involving dad in their children's lives, and how to better communicate with the father(s) of their child(ren).
When Saderia tells the moms that they are only 50% of that baby, the moms respond vehemently, “No, he/she’s all mine!” Another response from the moms is “Why do we need this? We didn’t do anything!” or, “They’re the ones not paying child support!”. Saderia reminds both dads and moms, that their child is not a monthly bill, and that moms and dads have to work together for the welfare of their child.
“We try to work with them (the moms), and in the beginning, they are adamant that the only thing wanted is monetary support, and that they do not want dad in the life of child.” I tell them, even if dad is not involved or active now, he could have a mind change and it could develop into a relationship. That child is still 50% dad. Moms should have an idea of how their relationship (with their child) would look—and the child and dad should have an idea how their relationship should work.
But when you get them to the end, moms do get it. The moms particularly like the fact, as one mom put it, “I am not on this boat by myself.” It’s that “A-Ha” moment—like fireworks going off! Now dad and mom are BOTH more prepared to care for their children and co-parent in a healthy way.
Saderia shared a few things they’ve learned over the years running classes for both moms and dads:
- Often the couples are in volatile relationships (and the courts are involved), so it's better to have a separate time and day for each of the parent classes.
- Each group is completely different from the last and as a facilitator, she is alert to some of the issues the parent might be having that could derail the mandated classes. Some may have some emotional or mental health issues to grapple with, or, for example, one court ordered mom, was faithfully attending but her health issue was worsening and treatment could not be delayed, so the center got her connected with needed health services as well as advocated for her to the court to allow her treatment first, then resume the classes.
- Overcoming physical, economic, and emotional barriers and understanding their individual and co-parenting roles is key for parents to build a better life and to prepare their children for success.
Ultimately, programs for both moms and dads are important to the well-being of the entire family, and JASFC is supporting their community in this important way.
For more information on the Fatherhood & Motherhood Initiative and Jasper Family Services Center see https://www.jafsc.org/.