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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Fathers encouraged to become more involved.

  • Attending eight Wednesday night Focus on Fatherhood classes to learn how to become more involved in their children’s lives does not just benefit the fathers, according to the teacher. “In helping fathers, we are helping their children,” said retired Hannibal educator W.T. Johnson, who is teaching the classes.
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  • Attending eight Wednesday night Focus on Fatherhood classes to learn how to become more involved in their children’s lives does not just benefit the fathers, according to the teacher.  “In helping fathers, we are helping their children,” said retired Hannibal educator W.T. Johnson, who is teaching the classes.
    “The bottom line is, our system is often reactive,” Johnson said. “We do things after the fact.”
    Many children have nonresidential dads, who are not as involved in their lives as needed, he continued. “These children that have these nonresidential dads are the ones that are the challenge within our school system, within our early childhood program and within our Head Start programs.
    “If we can do something to help the adults in their lives, eventually it will make their lives a little bit better,” Johnson said.
    The classes are provided by Douglass Community Services, where Julie Scott, family and community leadership specialist, explained how they began in March. “Some of our fathers were requesting (this type of help), and we were in need of a facilitator. He (Johnson) stepped in, and it has been wonderful.”
    Johnson retired in June after 12 years with the Hannibal public schools, where he was assistant principal at Veterans Elementary School.
    DCS and its Head Start and Early Head Start programs are accepting applications for the eight-week sessions scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays from Sept. 10 through Oct. 29 at DCS, 711 Grand Ave. in Hannibal, Mo. To submit an application, call DCS at (573) 221-3890, Ext. 241 for Scott or Ext. 256 for Johnson.
    The classes will focus on the “ICAN” of fathering, “Involvement, Consistency, Awareness and Nurturing.”
    As he prepares to lead the third series of fatherhood classes, Johnson explained why each of the four goals is important.
    • Involvement. “We want men to begin to take an active role in the rearing of their children, in all aspects,” Johnson said. “If you look at our schools, most of the teachers or providers of care are women. Our children are constantly being taught or guided by women. … In many of these families, there are men whose voices have become smaller and smaller.”
    • Consistency. “If they are involved, we want fathers to do it on a consistent basis, not just once in awhile.
    Men are good about doing physical things with their children, and there is nothing wrong with that.
    “But we would like to see them get more involved in the academic portions of their children lives, getting more involved in helping their child develop social skills and also allowing fathers to have opportunities in nurturing their children. … We want fathers to be consistent.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Regarding nonresidential fathers, Johnson said, “Those nonresidential fathers have a right to be involved in their children’s lives, and we need to encourage and support that.”
    • Awareness. “We want fathers to be more aware of the influence they have on their children,” Johnson said. “We want fathers to recognize how not being around has an impact on their children.
    “A large percentage of children in nonresidential father homes have emotional problems or end up in our juvenile system, as well as a large percentage are high school dropouts because of the lack of influence of a father or father-like figure. We want men to become more aware of that.”
    • Nurturing. “That is where we are talking about fathers stepping up and being a part of that child’s life from birth,” Johnson continued, “changing diapers, sitting up when that child’s sick, being available to listen to that child when they have experienced some sort of challenge or frustration, just being there for them.
    “If you have made poor choices, such as involvement with drugs, that caused an agency to come in and take your children away from you, your contact with them is limited, and it has affected and in some ways influenced your children in terms of their lives.”
    In addition to these main topics, he said, “We have eight to 10 subtopics that we address.”
    Fathers are not the only men Johnson encourages to attend the classes. “A lot of grandparents are raising their grandchildren,” he said.
    “This happens because those grandparents’ children have made some decisions that have impacted upon the children. Rather than a grandparent allowing the children to be in the foster-care system, they have stepped up to the plate and taken over.”
    DCS would appreciate advance registrations, so supplies may be provided, although men will be accepted at the classes without advance notice.
    Johnson added that financial donations also are appreciated. “Like with any social service, there are grants, and Douglass is actively pursuing grants. But if there is a civic group (interested in supporting the program), it takes about $200 per person for the eight weeks. This includes materials, a small stipend for the facilitator, and we provide them with a meal.”
    Anyone interested in more details or wanting to make a donation to support the Focus on Fatherhood classes is invited to contact DCS, Head Start or Early Head Start.
     
     

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