In the world of child welfare agencies and the services provided, specialized care and available resources are oftentimes targeted toward mothers. This can potentially lead to leaving fathers without the knowledge of how to become more involved in their child’s life.
Derrick Dukes is the parent engagement coordinator at the Mitzi Freidheim Englewood Child & Family Center, but he’s also a father to a four-year-old girl at the center. “I came in the same way these fathers did eight years ago. I wanted to be as involved as possible in my child’s life. It’s simply a matter of educating yourself and trying to help others,” he says.
Now, Derrick is leading the way for other fathers and helping them learn ways to feel more engaged. He leads a weekly group at the Freidheim Center called the Men of the Roundtable. These hourly sessions provide fathers a safe space to bring up any issues they’re having in an open conversation. Topics range from financial literacy, second chance programs, record expungement and how to engage more with their children.
Men of the Roundtable was created to reduce stress for fathers and invite them to feel welcome at the Freidheim Center. “We want them to feel this is their building and space at Mitzi as much as it is for the moms. It’s also a chance for them to build relationships with other dads, understand they’re not alone in this, and learn from each other’s experiences,” Derrick tells us.
He tells us fathers can often be left out of the conversation as a result of problems between two parents. “It’s about healing both parties for the well-being of their child. When a father is more educated and engaged in his child’s life, it will benefit both the mother and father regardless of their relationship status,” he explains.
Derrick says they want to expand the number of members in the group as well as build upon their curriculum. He hopes that as the group grows, so will the available resources and the fathers’ knowledge. “Our focus is on childhood development first and foremost. I’m a strong believer that as the child grows, the parents grow as well,” he adds.
The Men of the Roundtable is just one way Children’s Home & Aid supports fathers in strengthening the bonds with their children. Another is through our Power of Fathers initiative, which is focused on improving outcomes for children by improving life circumstances of their fathers.