Char-Koosta News

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Fatherhood program helps families thrive

By Lailani Upham

The Passages Responsible Fatherhood Program is located near the Safety of Dams building at 711 Northwest 3rd Avenue in Ronan off of Highway 93. (Courtesy photo)

RONAN — Fathers are important to the healthy development of children.

From this concept came the program, “The Program” funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families to help fathers and mothers get on their feet and strive to provide and care for their young ones.

Gary Acevedo, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Passages Responsible Fatherhood Program Coordinator stated even though the program is called, “Fatherhood” the services are available for mothers and expectant parents.

The programs falls under the CSKT tribal structure, however is available to all federally-recognized tribal members who reside on the Flathead Reservation as well says, Acevedo.

And there is no age requirement for the program, he adds.

DHHS ANA reported that many fatherhood program development experts agree that it is crucial that mothers’ perspectives be involved in the planning of programs for fathers and that mothers be given consideration in the development of service delivery models.

The report goes on to state that fatherhood programs should not merely replicate the single gender focus of many of the current social service programs serving mothers and children. Programs that serve only fathers and their children could possibly distort the family perspective as much as programs that serve only mothers and their children.

Research from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Labor found in 2001 that the quality of the mother-father relationship is one factor that strongly affects a father’s willingness and ability to be involved with his children.

The report went on to say studies indicate that many parents have a positive relationship at the time of the baby’s birth, both mothers and fathers want to be actively involved in their child’s life, and disagreements among parents may become more intractable over time, which has led to an interest in working with the whole family from the earliest intervention.

According to the DHHS ANA, no single fatherhood program models are the same in the communities that they serve.

Some examples across the country are informal support groups started locally that meet sporadically, some address the special issues that affect fathers parenting special needs or adopted children, others are structured to work with fathers holistically to address stressors or behaviors that can affect their abilities to support their children emotionally and financially (such as unemployment, noncustodial, or long-distance dads), and still others work with incarcerated fathers or those affected by family violence. Some are small, local activities while others collaborate with larger social service agencies.

The CSKT Fatherhood Program focuses on the local tribal community and strives to meet the needs of the father and mothers.

Acevedo says the goal of the program and what has been achieved most in the last five years of the “Fatherhood” existence is to get parents self-motivated and gain a sense of self-responsibility.

Services offered are: Native investing, business concepts, cultural activities, basic home building and maintenance, basic automotive repair, food preservation and preparation.

Two of the largest needs of the participants are job placement and household assistance, says Acevedo.

The program holds financial planning seminars for participants conducted by Rich Janssen, CSKT Natural Resources Director.

Parenting courses that have a strong fatherhood focus with a context of marriage relationship as well.

Three case managers, Windy Bourdon, SuSan Dowdall, and Gene Lozeau work with several participants in a one-year time phase through mentorship and guidance in the program services.

According to Acevedo, during the 2012 fiscal year the program has served 177 clients, 105 males and 72 females.

Although the program assists clients in job placement in other programs, departments, and agencies the client is required to work 160 hours in one job before moving to another. “We are not a day labor pool. We can not provide one or two day jobs for someone,” Acevedo explains.

The reason for this is to develop a work ethic and experience with a client.

The Fatherhood Program is located in Ronan near the Safety of Dams building at 711 Northwest 3rd Avenue.

For enrollment in the program or questions call (406) 6752700 ext. 6283, or email Jessica Pierre, Office Manager at jessicap@cskt.org.

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