“I was as close to rock bottom as I’ve been and having the stability of this group and the great people helped me turn things around - and I’m a different person than when I started,” said Jaren, a recent graduate from the Nurturing Fathers program at the Hampshire County House of Corrections.
“I choose to be the best possible father I could ever be for them.”
The Children’s Trust partners with community agencies to bring the Nurturing Fathers Program to Massachusetts fathers. The program helps fathers build parenting skills and strengthen bonds with their children. The Children’s Trust and the Hampshire House of Corrections partner to offer the Nurturing Fathers program in the jail to provide guidance and counseling to fathers during their incarceration as well as additional transitional support at the Northampton Recovery Center for participants after they leave incarceration and return home to their families.
Since this partnership began in 2014, more than150 fathers have graduated from the program.
“I really feel at home in this group with guys who are in the same position as me,” said James, another recent graduate. “I’m a proud father. These two [James’ children] are my greatest creations ever. This class has helped me appreciate some of the small things that I wasn’t paying enough attention to. I choose to be the best possible father I could ever be for them.”
Last month, seven dads graduated from the program at a ceremony at Look Park in Florence, MA. The graduating fathers read individual essays titled “The Father I Want to Be” in which they shared with attendees how they want to parent their children moving forward. The graduates and their families were joined by Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, recently retired Children’s Trust Executive Director Suzin Bartley, Nurturing Fathers Program Coordinator Vuthy Chhum, Nurturing Fathers Hampshire Sheriff’s Office Program Director Mindy Cady, and Nurturing Fathers Facilitator Tyler Stanton who is also a graduate of the program.
“I’m a success. You guys gave me the opportunity to be a better father, a better man, and the person I am today,” said Stanton to the program coordinators. “My son told my wife, ‘I’m proud of my Dad.’ I never thought that would happen.”
The Nurturing Fathers curriculum is an evidence-based, 13-week training course designed to teach parenting and nurturing skills to men. Each 2.5 hour class provides proven, effective skills for healthy family relationships and child development. Fathers begin the program by exploring their own childhood and are observed interacting with their children during a father-child play day. Trained facilitators provide feedback and individualized support to help program participants strengthen their parenting skills.
Research demonstrates that fathers play an important role in the development of their children. A study from the U.S. Department of Education found that highly involved fathers have children who are 33% less likely than other children to repeat a grade and are 43% more likely than other children to earn mostly A’s. A study from the Urban Leadership Institute found that 90% of homeless and runaway youth, 71% of high school dropouts, and 85% of youth who exhibit behavioral disorders come from a fatherless home.