Catholic Family Service released the findings of a three year study titled: Fathers Moving Forward June 2019 at a private event in downtown Calgary. Fathers Moving Forward is a program for fathers aged 16 to 26 provided by Catholic Family Service at the Louise Dean Centre for pregnant and parenting teens. Developed and piloted in 2015, the purpose of the program is to help young, at-risk fathers learn good parenting skills and stay involved in their children’s lives for the long term.
Shane Lynch, the first program coordinator of the study, joined us to share his thoughts on what being a pioneer in this area was like.
“Fathers Moving Forward will be something I will look back on with pride, not only because of my own involvement, but because of the young fathers who were courageous enough to share their vulnerabilities with me and with each other in the pursuit of the most challenging role: fatherhood.”
Shane went on to set the theme for his talk saying “Courage and transformation. Fathers Moving Forward is a testament to both and it is my belief as a psychologist, a husband, a son, a brother, and a father, that in life, courage begets transformation.”
He recounted the stories of how he felt as he began to develop the program saying he was “hopeful, interested, and probably even a bit naïve” it was not long after Shane started at the Louise Dean Center that he realised that he was the first male to be employed by Catholic Family Service to work at Louise Dean Centre in roughly 50 years. With many of the social workers holding a firm belief that young fathers were nothing but the perpetrators of violence. Much like the young fathers he would soon meet Shane had to be courageous to open the possibility for transformation in the Louise Dean Center. It was in that moment he said he would quite literally have to be the face of change and be a champion for the young fathers if he wished to see results.
It was soon realised by all at Louise Dean Center that “the issues that challenged young mothers were exactly the same for young fathers. Young fathers also came from traumatic family backgrounds fraught with abuse and neglect. The only difference I could see was they did not have a building built for them so that they could get the support they needed to finish high school. They did not have passionate, dedicated social workers helping them to navigate family, friends, and school dynamics, financial pitfalls, government funding applications, and childcare supports.”
Fathers Moving Forward had found so much success Shane continued “We soon developed an additional night I called Dad’s Play Night. After hearing about how much the dads enjoyed their kids, and were excited to spend time with them. Here was chance to just play in a safe environment that was designed to support fathers in developmentally appropriate play.”
Talking about Dad’s Play night he explained the impact it had “It was a huge success, but not just with regard to turn out. The dads that came to Fathers Moving Forward Play Nights returned multiple times, they came after they had graduated from the program. One of the father’s came up to me and thanked me for inviting him and said to me: “This was the first time I have ever taken my son out on my own, and for the first time I felt like a real dad.” What courage it must have taken to go and pick up his son, put the car seat in his car, drive down diaper bag in tow, be in charge of playtime, diaper time, and meal time, and then drive him back to his girlfriend’s house that night. His role as a father was realized for the first time. Transformative? Yes.”
Shane concluded by telling us how his life was changed because of the program. “My involvement in Fathers Moving Forward, transformed my own life. In 2017, when my wife April was due back at work after her one-year maternity leave, I made the decision to leave my full-time position with CFS to care for our son full time. What I had learned from the young fathers was how important their children are to them and honestly I felt like I was missing out.”
As the applause following Shane’s speech dies down and the event comes to a close Catholic family service could not think of a better way to spend the day after father’s day.
For more information about Fathers Moving forward please contact:
contact Tracey Dalman, Supervisor, Counselling and Social Support Services, at 403.205.8500 or firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit: https://www.cfs-ab.org/what-we-do/cfs-at-louise-dean-centre/