Ryan Berryman was tired of waiting. He had worked with children and families for over 20 years in San Bernardino County and imagined a community where dads were just as involved with their children as were moms, and, were encouraged to do so through programs and resources offered by family and social services. He didn’t want dads to be the “invisible” parent.
Fast forward to 2018: The Press-Enterprise recently published a local news article about the San Bernardino County Fatherhood Initiative. In it they share how Ryan Berryman decided to tackle what he felt was one of the largest deficits in social services – providing services for fathers.
The article shared, “Historically, fathers have been the invisible parent and not seen as someone that needs help,” Berryman said. “Fathers need help as well. If we provide adequate resources it makes families stronger and the community safer.” The public support system has been set up to discourage men from being part of the family, Berryman said. He noted that research shows that, when fathers are involved, children do better academically and emotionally. There is also less pressure and stress on a family’s mother.
But the story doesn’t end here. Let’s take a closer look at what is behind the success you see today.
Becoming a Champion
Counties can really do great things for fathers, but we often see the wheels turn slowly. Ryan was constantly reminded of the father absence issue and the lack of a focus on fathers through resources and services, especially during home visits where he worked mainly with moms. This didn’t sit well with him.
In one home in particular he remembers meeting with the mom all the time. Dad wasn’t on the case plans for 6 months. Then one day this guy shows up: it’s dad. Ryan was eventually able to connect with him around his role as a dad.
For years, Ryan championed encouraging his agency to hire men as “Parent Partners” for the families they served. They were able to get one or two men, but it wasn’t making the change he hoped to see.
Frustrated with the lack of support for fathers in the county, Ryan thought about retiring. But something urged him on to champion fatherhood. When he looked in his county for resources and services for dads, he discovered that in general, there just weren’t a lot of services. He decided to change that.
A Champion Moves Forward, Even if Alone
Over the last 10 years of his career, Ryan started talking to coworkers about the importance of fathers and the importance of including them in social service and programs. He and his colleagues began a father’s breakfast that was held every Father’s Day for the dads they served in the child welfare services. It was nice to have that “token of recognition” as Ryan called it, but nothing more father-specific was added to the list of offerings.
So, Ryan started The San Bernardino Fatherhood Initiative in 2016, a nonprofit organization with no paid employees. The people who “work” with him on the fatherhood initiatives are usually friends or relatives – people who see and understand his vision. On his “staff” he has an uncle, a close pastor, a few friends, and others he maintains connections with. Ryan started using a fatherhood curriculum in May of last year, and his goal is to be able to have alumnus of the program volunteer to help lead and teach other fathers through the initiative.
A Champion Finds the Right Tools for the Job
Ryan selected NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program because he wanted to offer an evidence-based program that gave men the skills to be a better father for the sake of their children, families and the community. He currently offers the program to dads for free at the Highland YMCA, and in the past has held classes at a local church, a residential treatment center, and he even through the school system. He never gives up trying to reach dads.
As the primary facilitator of 24/7 Dad®, Ryan appreciates how the program addresses the father’s history and works with dads to make them aware of how their fathering history affects the type of father they are today. Ryan also reinforces that to be a great dad, you need to be a great man. Ryan finds that some parenting programs are missing this key point; they focus on parenting and assume (or maybe even take for granted) that the dad is a “good man”. There are many reasons for this challenge of being a good man, but most often Ryan says he sees that a lot of the men he works with didn’t have good role models. The 24/7 Dad® program also helps to address some of the trauma the men have gone through, causing them to search for manhood in all the wrong ways, namely - violence, crime, alcoholism, gangs, drugs.
One of the other important things Ryan focuses on in his sessions is educating fathers on the 5 protective factors. While he facilitates the24/7 Dad®, he ties in the concept of how a 24/7 Dad® enforces the 5 protective factors to become better dads, men, and husbands.
A Champion Welcomes Others Along for the Ride
In true champion fashion, Ryan knows that his passion for fathers shouldn’t end with him — he envisions that his children and/or grandchildren will pick up on his fatherhood work. He also welcomes others along for the ride. In fact, Ryan wants to see a fatherhood program in every region in San Bernardino County. After all, it is the largest county in CA — maybe even the country.
The good news is that the Initiative recently received a grant from the Youth Grantmakers program through The Community Foundation. Ultimately, Ryan hopes that more of the community will not only support his work, but also create more fatherhood programs throughout San Bernardino County.