Helping flawed fathers measure up

Tina Griego concludes her column (8/30/07) on the irresponsibilities of Travis Henry and the stellar determination of Oshanette Neal – single mother of six, with a quote from Sidney Poitier’s book, The Measure of a Man. Poitier writes, “The measure of a man is how well he takes care of his children” Neal wants all her sons, and I presume daughters, to know and believe that no matter who you are, male or female, single or married, dead beat or dead broke, that “when you have children, life is not about you anymore. It’s about them.”

Neal is not alone in this belief. There are moms and dads across Colorado who are doing everything they can to be there for their children. There are also men and women who either through their own irresponsibility or outside barriers are falling far short of what their children need and desire.

As a father and family specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services, I have the privilege of administrating a five-year federal grant designed to promote responsible fatherhood across the state. Colorado was one of two locations in the nation to receive this funding. More than half of the funds are going to community and faith-based organizations that are focusing on improving the well-being of children of at-risk families by helping dads develop a lasting, positive and nurturing connection with their kids.

Here are just a few examples of what is going on across the state. In Salida dads are learning what it means to be a nurturing father. Teen dads in detention centers across the state are learning what it means to be a responsible father. Child support enforcement agencies in Larimer and Jefferson County are trying to transform the image of their agencies by helping dads develop parenting and employment skills as well addressing other needs. Latino dads in Adams, Boulder and Weld Counties are learning how to be their child’s and family’s best advocate through a program called Los Padres. Fortunately I could go on and on with stories from agencies currently helping dads measure up.

It is not happening overnight and as Neal’s story demonstrates it takes hard work, sacrifice and commitment, but she is not alone in her efforts. There is a great deal of work being done across the state to help dads be there for their kids.

Rich Batten, Fatherhood and Family Specialist
Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division
Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative