The Fatherhood Project | Connecting fathers and children.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
The Fatherhood Project (TFP) is a non-profit fatherhood organization in the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by empowering fathers to be active, informed & emotionally engaged w/ their children & families
The Fatherhood Project is excited to announce that we have been selected as one of 13 non-profit organizations to receive a grant from the ALKERMES INSPIRATION GRANTS® program. The grant will support our Dads in Recovery program, which provides substance-using fathers with psycho-educational counseling that supports their recovery, helping them to establish or repair their relationship with their children while parenting with increased skills, confidence and competence.
Graduates from our program have reported that
They had warmer, more affectionate relationships with their children with more open communication and less conflict
The amount of time spent with their children doubled on average.
They felt more confident across a variety of domains including teaching, discipline, understanding and responding, and tending to their children’s needs.
Their desire and ability to abstain from alcohol and drug use increased.
Several graduates also reported using the tools they learned in the program to re-establish relationships with their children after having no contact for many months, and in some cases, years.
“Addiction and mental illness affect millions of people and their families every day, and require an integrated approach to treatment that is scalable in communities across the country,” said Richard Pops, Chief Executive Officer of Alkermes. “Medicines play a role, but importantly, it is the innovative programs, like The Fatherhood Project’s, designed to support people affected by these diseases and led by passionate leaders on the front lines that will ignite sustainable and meaningful change for patients.”
The award will allow TFP to run five additional Dads in Recovery groups next year in the Greater Boston and Lowell areas.
Thanks to a shared interest in encouraging engaged fathers, The Fatherhood Project has recently partnered with the National Basketball Player’s Association Foundation (NBPA) to create resources for fathers and promote active fatherhood in Massachusetts and in NBA cities across the country. We are excited and pleased to have such a strong partner, because, as the NBPA Foundation states on their website “Fathering is influenced by culture, which must support and reinforce messages and behaviors that lead to fathers taking active roles in the healthy development of their children. This requires deliberate actions and messages that tell stories of fathers engaging with their children.”
For their part, NBPA has launched the #everydaydad series, which “tells stories about NBA players – from their childhood to their child’s birth – in order to celebrate fathers and fatherhood and provide inspiration for legions of fans to celebrate their own relationships with their dads and their kids.” They are also collaborating with fatherhood organizations (like TFP) around the country to enhance our work and impact a larger audience.
Part of the NBPA’s work promoting engaged fathers includes sponsoring fatherhood conferences, such as the Crescent City Dads Fatherhood Summit in New Orleans this past Friday. The Summit was hosted by Crescent City Dads, which is a joint effort between NOLA FOR LIFE and Healthy Start New Orleans to give fathers the tools and support they need to be the best dads for their kids.
I had the opportunity to lead a panel on Engaged Fatherhood there, and was pleased to be joined by two fathers of NBA players, Charles Paul (father of Chris Paul) and Karl Anthony Towns, Sr. (father of Karl Anthony Towns, Jr.). These two fathers have helped to raise not only great professional basketball players, but great men, and are working to impact men outside of their own families as well. They are part of an organization called Fathers and Men of NBA Players to demonstrate the importance of fatherhood and to reach out to players who have no relationship with their own fathers.
I enjoyed my time getting to know Mr. Towns (left) and Mr. Paul (right). They are both outspoken, confident champions of engaged fatherhood. They shared their personal family histories in an intimate way. They revealed their commitment as fathers to raising children who believe in education, responsibility to others and a strong internal moral sense. Despite significant financial pressures in their early lives as fathers, leading them to work two jobs, they were strong voices in their children’s lives. We share the mission of emphasizing the importance of fatherhood with men and teaching future fathers they can “change the world” through emotional engagement. We know through research that children’s outcomes improve emotionally, socially, academically and behaviorally when fathers are involved.
TFP is excited to have connected with such dedicated organizations that share our mission, and we are looking forward to future collaboration. Look for more info about #everydaydad, Crescent City Dads, NOLA FOR LIFE, and Healthy Start New Orleans on our social media channels as we share throughout the month.
Contact Name: Raymond Levy, PsyD The Fatherhood Project at MGH (781) 248-5505 firstname.lastname@example.org
Teaming Up For Dads in Recovery
Three Massachusetts programs are collaborating to reconnect fathers recovering from addiction with their children.
Graduate from the Dads in Recovery Program
Lowell, MA: The Fatherhood Project at MGH has teamed up with Billy Cabrera of The Resource & Reclamation Center and the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR)* to offer an innovative program to fathers in substance use recovery in the greater Lowell area. Cabrera, a former heroin addict who spent time in prison, now dedicates his time to helping men reclaim their lives from the clutches of addiction and incarceration. He has built a safe haven and sense of community for these men at his business, Billy’s Barber Shop, where The Resource & Reclamation Center operates. The Fatherhood Project (TFP) has partnered with him to offer their innovative Dads in Recovery program there, which provides fathers recovering from addiction a chance to reconnect with their children and parent effectively, leading to a powerful reason to remain sober. DOR is allocating a portion of the federal Access and Visitation grant to fund this initiative.
“Research shows that addiction driven behaviors damage family relationships, leaving fathers with a negative or limited relationship with their children, uncertainty about their role in the family and a powerful sense of guilt and shame,” says TFP Executive Director Raymond Levy. “Disengagement negatively impacts a father’s mental health and his children’s ability to reach positive behavioral, emotional and academic outcomes, fueling a multi-generational cycle of parental abandonment and substance abuse.”
Led by TFP Director of Programs John Badalament, Dads in Recovery is an evidence-based program that provides fathers recovering from addiction with psycho-educational counseling that supports their recovery, and helps them to:
Establish or repair their relationship with their children
Parent with increased skills, confidence and competence
Understand aspects of child development
“I got to see my kids for the first time in six months.”
Graduate from the Dads in Recovery Program
Louis, a participant of the program felt its impact immediately. “We did this activity, Your Fatherhood Legacy, and I had almost a physical reaction. I realized that I could leave a different legacy for my kids. We also used role-playing to practice talking to our co-parents. Using those lessons, I had a successful probate court appearance with my ex-wife to discuss my visitation rights and was able to focus on the best interest of our children. Because of that I got to see my kids for the first time in six months.”
Cabrera, a well-known and respected presence in Lowell, recruits fathers for the program from his relationships with local recovery homes, and does follow up work with group members.
The Fatherhood Project is a non-profit program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Their mission is to improve the health and well-being of children and families by empowering fathers to be knowledgeable, active, and emotionally engaged with their children.
John Badalament and Billy Cabrera celebrating graduating the first 9 men from the Dads in Recovery Program
*DOR is the single state agency in the Commonwealth responsible for the administration of the child support enforcement program. DOR provides services to individuals and families, whether or not they receive public assistance, to establish paternity and to establish, enforce, and modify child support orders. DOR also provides child support information and assistance to individuals through its partnerships, with veterans, re-entry and fatherhood programs, as well with correctional facilities.
By paying careful attention to who our kids are, we can help them realize their dreams.
Most of us develop a relationship with our children beginning before they are even born. We talk to them, we imagine being involved in their lives, and we think about what they’ll be like – usually in ways that reflect our own dreams. After all, we haven’t met our children yet. We wonder, who will they be and what will they like doing with us? Maybe they’ll want to read a book, kick a soccer ball or draw with me, but maybe not.
I was talking with a friend about the expectations we have for our children recently. He always imagined his kids would be good students, but they weren’t. So what does a father do with expectations – and we all have them – including when those aren’t met?
To start, at a most basic and perhaps obvious level, we help our children. We learn from them who they are, what they need and what their strengths and weaknesses are, as well as their likes and dislikes. We help them become who they are and to reach their potential.
When Children Come Into Their Own
At age 11, my friend’s son asked if he was good at sports. My friend told him he was good enough to enjoy sports for the rest of his life if he wanted, and that at the moment he was a better soccer player than baseball player. The boy took his father seriously and decided to concentrate on soccer – practices, summer clinics and playing with those who were more skilled. He played in high school and college and was captain of both teams, although never the best player.
His father taught him the qualities of leadership: work hard, make others better with your play and attitude, encourage your fellow players, ask what they need and how you can help. Now he is a leader in his work life.
My friend’s son was never a good student due to a learning disability. His father learned that pressuring him to succeed in school would lead to anger and rebellion; so instead, he encouraged him in his studies while helping him succeed where his heart was – on the soccer field with his band of friends, many of whom he still has.
Meanwhile, his daughter had always liked to read, and he imagined she would be an eager student. She wasn’t, and her frustration in school taught him about who she was, who she wasn’t and the limitations she faced. He listened and learned.
She loved horses, was excited about taking care of them and improving as a rider. She learned to canter and compete, then jump. She competed for a year in college and recently she invited him to watch her ride and jump. He made a photo book of her hour-long ride to validate her interest, honor her achievement and celebrate her near-20-year course of effort. She beamed during the ride and afterward at the photo book. Now she works at a barn exercising the horses, helping children dress their horses for riding and riding trails with learners. She is a well-respected hard worker, with dreams of doing more with horses in the future.
Helping Our Kids Reach Their Potential
I think my friend has it right – help with your children’s limitations while celebrating their passion, their nature and their core abilities. Along those lines, here’s what we must do as parents:
Learn to see each child accurately. Despite the pressures of our own wishes and preconceptions, the arc of their lives is not about pleasing us. My job as a father is to know my children, be there for them and help develop their strengths while not rejecting them for their weaknesses, thereby injuring and devaluing them.
Be willing to be vulnerable in front of your children. Understand that this is a necessity if we want our children to speak to us about their weaknesses and problems as well as their successes. They need to know about our own doubts and the turning points in our lives. They need to know about our failures. I told both my kids that I got my lowest grade in a college sociology class: 36 percent. They both laughed.
Acknowledge that there are multiple roads to a satisfying life. My road was a good one for me, but my children will each find a path that works for them, and I can’t predict it or insist they follow the path I recommend.
But is this as easy as I make it sound? It can be if we are willing to keep an open mind and heart. Fathers can take the time to do a“relationship check-up” with their children. Think of a series of questions to initiate and encourage ongoing dialogue between yourself and your child. It’s a structured way to have a heart-to-heart talk about two central themes: your everyday lives and your relationship with each other. To start, you could both respond to the following questions and prompts:
What are two things I like about school (for the child) or work (for the parent)?
Name two things you each like about one another.
Name something you each wish you could do together.
What is one way we could strengthen our relationship?
The questions could be about anything. The key is that both of you have a chance to talk and listen to each other.
I am grateful for the 30 years I have been a father. No role or job has been more important, no concern has been more central and no joy rivals what I have derived from fatherhood. As Kyle Pruett has said, we have “fatherneed” – my children have needed me and I have needed them to feel I am living a full life.
So dads, have the attitude that you have a lot to learn from your children, and have the courage to feel like a beginner. They will teach you how to be a good father to them if you’re willing to see who they are and what they need. We start by holding our infants and thinking, “Now what?” Hopefully we evolve to learn from them and allow our children to show us who they are, so we can do our very best to give them what they need.
This post first appeared on the U.S. News & World Report Parenting Blog.