Male role model focus of Nurturing Fathers Program

Jennifer Demspey-

About 25 million American children will grow up without fathers in their homes, Mark Perlman, Nurturing Father’s Program founder said during a training seminar last week in Salida.
“Children who grow up without a father have a wound described as a hole in the soul … many kids will find unhealthy ways to fill it,” he said, citing the high rate of criminality, teenage pregnancy and violence of fatherless children.
More than 25 people from all parts of Colorado – including social workers, educators, child advocates, teachers and fathers – attended the two day training seminar held at First Presbyterian Church in Salida.
The seminar was based on Perlman’s 13-week curriculum designed to develop attitudes and skills for male nurturance.
“The entire state is here learning how to support our fathers,” Jane Whitmer, program manager of Nurturing Parenting said.
She invited Perlman of Florida to conduct the seminar in Salida.
“We not only have folks from Chaffee County, but from Ft. Collins, Sterling, Pueblo, Colorado Springs – the energy and enthusiasm around this program is really exciting!
A child advocate for 30 years, Perlman created the Nurturing Fathers program in 1998 because, he said, “If I care about children, I have to care about the parents.”
He said his passion for helping fathers stemmed from his own experience at being a father.
“When my own children were born, I promised to be the best father in the world, but found myself getting frustrated and doing a lot of yelling and hitting.
“I needed some corrective things,” he said. “The nurturing philosophy for women has always been well known, but for fathers it isn’t even on the chart.
“Fathers are not doing well in our culture … I could not find my own peace until I did something about it.”
The main goal of his program is to help fathers reunite with their children and remain in their children’s lives, he said, adding, ” We  (men) don’t ask for help very easily. We seem to think it’s an admission of weakness or failure.”
Stating that children need their fathers and fathers need their children, Perlman’s program stresses fathers are vital to their children because they teach little boys how to be men and they teach daughters how to relate to men.
Helping fathers will not only benefit men, he said, but women and children in family relationships.
A question from the audience asked about violent fathers, imprisoned fathers and fathers alienated from their children through divorce.
One man asked if Perlman ever encountered a great relationship between a child’s biological father and step father.
Before Perlman could answer, Michael Reilly of Salida shouted from the back of the room, “Right here as a matter of fact!”
Reilly was sitting beside Dean Massingale, a father also from Salida. Reilly is step-father to Massingale’s biological daughter, Emily. The audience applauded and laughed as Massingale added, “We get along better than me and the ex-wife!”
Perlman said, “I see very successful parent-child relationships coming out of divorce. It’s not fatal, but it does take healing.”
The Nurturing Father Program has been used in 46 states at parenting centers, halfway houses, prisons, churches by Prevent Child Abuse.
In the fall, Nurturing Fathers classes will be offered in Salida and Buena Vista.
They will be paid for using a Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Grant to First Presbyterian Church of Salida and the Department of Health and Human Services.
A local group of fathers called Dads Assisting Dads will initiate the 13 week Nurturing Fathers Program from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Sept. 7 in Poncha Springs.
The first one will be “Naskids: Dads on Track.” They will provide free go-carting, miniature golf and pizza for dads and kids.
Programs will be open to all fathers. More information about acitivites is available from Whitmer at Nurturing Parents, 539.6386.