What I Heard at the Fathering Conference

People who work in parent-child programming are accustomed to attending conferences where women outnumber men by a significant margin.

It is a novel – and enlightening– experience to attend a conference where there are as many male participants as there are female, and where the majority of the presenters are male.

The national Fathering Conference in Winnipeg March 1 and 2 was just such an event.

Sponsored by Dad Central Canada, the one and a half day event was entitled “Side by Side: Strategies for Working with Vulnerable Fathers”.

Attending any conference always involves choices – ‘which breakout sessions do I attend?’ – and one person’s notes may not look anything like another’s as a result. When I reviewed my notes after the conference, I found these nuggets.

Father involvement:

  • Is greater in the upper and middle classes
  • Affects child development
  • Is affected by vulnerability and marginalization

Words I Will Not Forget

“I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What makes a father vulnerable:

  • Mental illness
  • Incarceration
  • Military career
  • Newcomer status
  • Domestic violence
  • Aboriginal background
  • Youth
  • Non-residential
  • Racialized
  • Special needs

(I think I would add socio-economic status to the list. Poverty equals vulnerability in many cases and this supports the earlier statement that father involvement is greater in the upper and middle classes.)

Five strength-based assumptions:

  • Fathers desire to have regular interaction with their kids.
  • Fathers have an innate ability to nurture and care for their children
  • Fathers focus on success in all areas of their children’s lives
  • Fathers have important and unique gifts to bring to families
  • When we strengthen fathers, we strengthen kids.

Words I Will Not Forget

Adolescence is a stage, not an age.

What do dads want in a dad’s group? (as selected by dads in Ontario’s Niagara region).

  • Peer to peer
  • Evening
  • Facilitator with lived experience
  • Accessible location
  • Topics of interest
  • Food
  • child care
  • “not like school”
  • Group of dads

Words I Will Not Forget

Every time you say the words “at risk”, it is potentially prejudicial.

For further information and resources you can go to www.dadcentral.ca

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