Giving dads a hand |

Giving dads a hand

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A new Garfield County program has formed with the goal of strengthening the role of fathers in families.The Family Connections/ Responsible Fatherhood program will provide services such as parenting classes, mediation, job search assistance, and referrals to agencies providing substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health treatment.It’s targeting a variety of populations, from dads who don’t have custody of their kids, to young fathers, to those who are sentenced to Community Corrections and thus are apart from their families.Steve Aurand, a project manager for the county Department of Human Services, said he hopes the program will serve 60 to 70 fathers in its first year. Participation would be voluntary.”I think a lot of time the dads want to do what’s right but they don’t really know where to begin,” he said.

Aurand said there’s a nationwide push for specific programs for fathers, and for helping uninvolved fathers become a part of their kids’ lives.Colorado has received a five-year grant of $2 million a year to build a statewide network of such programs. Similar programs exist in Mesa, Montrose and La Plata counties.Garfield County has applied for a $50,000 state grant that would let it hire a full-time case manager for its new program.Aurand said the county isn’t looking at the program as being all about dads. Instead, it’s about creating improved, healthy connections within families.In cases where fathers don’t have custody, that could involve working with both parents to improve communications within the family, and to provide help in co-parenting.One program goal is to help dads recognize their financial responsibility to their families. When they are in arrears or in contempt of court regarding child care payments, the program could provide some mediation to come up with a new child support program, or job training and other services that could help the father get caught up. Aurand said the county has about 2,200 child support cases.

The program also could help parents who live apart but have no formal parenting plans, which can lead to miscommunications and problems and can also make it difficult for authorities if a parent ends up in court.The county recently opened a new facility that doubles its community corrections program capacity, Aurand said. The fatherhood program will focus on how those in community corrections can connect with families or transition in a healthy way back to caretaking roles once they have completed their sentences.”A lot of times those dads haven’t been involved for quite a few years or have no relationship with their kids at all,” Aurand said.The program also is targeting young fathers who may be lacking in parenting skills, and in some cases are still in their teens themselves. And it aims to help a growing number of fathers who are raising children on their own because the mothers have become addicted to methamphetamine.Aurand said the program also is intended to be available to the general population as a clearinghouse where dads can seek information and help with problems, and receive guidance as well as referrals to other assistance programs.The program is being developed in cooperation with local courts, probation officials, Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Workforce Centers, and nonprofit agencies such as YouthZone, the Advocate Safehouse Project and Alpine Legal Services.

Although the program isn’t even officially going yet, Aurand said he already has had calls from several fathers about it. Those who are interested in the program or have questions may reach him at 625-5282, ext. 264.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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