B.U.I.L.D. helps dads improve parenting skills

By Phylecia Wilson

For dads who would like to work on their parenting skills, the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter has just the program for you. The Building Up Involved Loving Dads (B.U.I.L.D.) Program works with teen-aged and adult dads to help them learn how to administer discipline in a positive way. But that’s not all.
“We teach everything from helping Dad when he and the mother of his child don’t see eye to eye on parenting because of family background differences, to positive discipline,” explained Program Director Jasmine McCoy.
“We also certify dads with CPR and First Aid as well as provide them with a group opportunity to talk about their experiences as fathers.
Through the program we try to help them understand the age and stage of their child.”
The federally funded grant program is nine weeks in length during which time program attendees meet once a week for two hours. The Children’s Shelter provides transportation assistance if needed and they offer incentives for participation and refreshments at every class.
Upon completion of the nine weeks each father receives a $100 check for his youngest child. McCoy said they encourage the men to put the money in a savings account for the child.
As the program coordinator McCoy oversees all fatherhood activities but she has a staff of three who facilitate classes and help with one-on- one coaching. If participants agree, staff members will go to the home and observe how Dad interacts with his child. In turn, the staff member helps with interaction and shows the dad how he can communicate better.
“Everything in our program is on a volunteer basis,” McCoy stated. “The participants choose the services they want to participate in.”
Those services include family counseling and family activities. On Family Communication Day the child’s family – dad and mom or dad and grandmother – participate in bowling or events in one of Gwinnett’s parks. “We model positive family interaction playfully through games and bowling,” McCoy explained.
The Children’s Shelter received the grant funding in 2007 and started the first class in January of 2008. Classes are held in various locations in Gwinnett County that are convenient to the bus lines and central to the county.
Dads who are interested can inquire about the program by calling the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter at 678-546-8770.
McCoy said that they advertise the program but they get referrals from organizations that they partner with such as Head Start, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and Juvenile Probation. They also get referrals from dads who have gone through the program. About half of the participants come from McCoy and her staff being out in the community and talking to people and organizations.
“Most love what they hear and refer others,” McCoy said.
As many outcomes as possible are tracked, such as who comes in and out and their accomplishments.
“A couple dads who went through our program got their GEDs and are now employed,” McCoy said. “We don’t find jobs for them – that’s not what the program is about - but we help them with resume building and other ways to help them get jobs.
“We know that as a result of the program fathers spend more time with their children which will ultimately have a positive effect on the child.”
Many participate in the family counseling that is offered which often helps with spousal relationships according to McCoy.
“Behavior change is difficult to measure but we can see attitude change,” she said. “Of course, we don’t know what happens when they get home, but we are in the in process of developing a tool to track behavior change.”
Three or four weeks into the nine-week session, mothers are also offered a special Education Day in which a staffer spends the day with her while dad is in class. In addition to learning some of the skills Dad is learning she gets some pampering, such as a massages or lunch.
Classes vary in size from 10 to 14 men. McCoy says they try to keep them small so the men can talk about their experiences and have a better one-on-one experience. In the past year, 140 dads have been served in the program.
“I encourage all dads who are interested in adding to their parenting skills to come,” McCoy said, emphasizing that B.U.I.L.D. is not a program for “bad” dads but dads who want to increase positive parenting skills.

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