Madison County programs support fatherhood

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WAMPSVILLE — Madison County is teaming with a faith-based program to strengthen families. On tap is a program that teaches fathers how to serve their children better, while teaching fathers about themselves.

Courses in the 13-week “Fatherhood Connection” series will cover boyhood, fatherhood, parenting, communication skills, anger management, conflict resolution, values and behaviors, problem solving, and healthy relationships, among others.

The program is free and will be held Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. at Pathways Wellness Center, 148 Main St., Oneida. Those interested can call 315-366-2248 to register.

Classes will begin Sept. 20 and run through Dec. 13. Each class lasts for two hours and a meal will be provided. Transportation and child care will not be provided.

“Class membership is made mostly through referrals, but anyone who is interested is welcome to join,” Madison County Social Services Commissioner Michael A. Fitzgerald said.

Each class is open to biological fathers and also to other men who find themselves in a position to offer guidance and protection to children.

“Our class is open to anyone who finds themselves in the position of acting as a father. This includes stepfathers, uncles, anyone who serves a guardian. We have one man who is a grandfather who ended up adopting his grandkids,” Fitzgerald said.

Small beginnings, big results

Reginald L. Cox is the pastor of Changing Lives Worship Center in Rochester. He has led the Fatherhood Connection program in Rochester for 12 years and has over 25 years of experience in human services, and he will direct Fatherhood Connection classes.

Cox taught parenting skills and provided support services to 12 fathers incarcerated in the Madison County Public Safety Building earlier this year. One father regained custody of his children after they were placed in foster care for 18 months. A second father found a job after being unemployed for a year, and a third man earned his driver’s license back after losing it.

“These classes have taught men to make changes that will result in fewer arrests and use of illegal drugs and back towards their families,” Fitzgerald said.

Because of these results Madison County’s Board of Supervisors approved payment of $15,000 from the county’s juvenile expense fund for the program.

“These men learned why they made some of the mistakes they made, and how to stop doing them. They moved on from these attitudes and behaviors, and learned how to model better behaviors for their children,” Fitzgerald said.

Classes teaching skills in fatherhood, and motherhood, continue to be taught in the safety building.

The case for fathers, and for fatherhood

Children need their fathers. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services said in a study that in households without a father present, children had a 77 percent greater risk of being physically abused, a 74 percent greater risk of suffering from emotional neglect and an 80 percent greater risk of suffering serious injury through abuse.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, children without a father were five times as likely to live in poverty. Children living with both parents also had less problems with depression, alcohol and drug use and early sexual activity. They achieved higher grades and were less likely to face legal trouble. Men directly benefit from the responsibilities and joys of raising children. The National Institute of Mental Health said in a study that men who are involved with their children have less chest pain, insomnia, fatigue and have better digestion. Fathers who stay involved with their families are also less likely to use alcohol, drugs and other illegal activities.

“Men are finding that fatherhood is good for them and also their children,” Fitzgerald said.

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