As Father's Day draws nigh, many family members are trying to find gifts to express their appreciation for the dads in their lives. Somehow, one day out of the year does not seem like enough to devote to this cause. Dads need to be recognized every day with words of thanks and affection. Imagine what it would be like without them. Even men who do not fully perform all their fatherly duties deserve to have their efforts noticed in some way. Fatherhood is not an easy job, especially for those who did not learn the skills they need from their own dads.
Last month, 70 people representing schools, community agencies, the clergy and fathers participated in the Fatherhood Summit at Camden Falls. Sponsored by First Step Family Violence Intervention Center of Fostoria, the seminar was funded by a Capacity Building Grant awarded to First Step from The National Fatherhood Initiative.
Four speakers shared insights and information about state and national programs aimed at strengthening communities by keeping fathers connected to their families. The presentations emphasized the need for agencies to help fathers be good role models and to enable men to take more responsibility in supporting their partners and their children, emotionally and financially.
Terri Mercer, director of First Step, said the conference was aimed at service providers, but it also attracted participants from the fatherhood programs at WSOS (Wyandot, Seneca, Ottawa and Sandusky community action commission) and First Step. During her remarks, Mercer praised the efforts of Gov. Ted Strickland.
"How wonderful it is that Ohio has a fatherhood commission. There are very few states that do, so we really need to be proud of what our state has done," Mercer said.
Those attending the conference had many positive comments about what they were hearing. Carol Guice, workshop specialist at Terra Community College in Fremont, said her office often works with ex-offenders and single parents. She said the speakers reinforced the importance of a father in the home.
"We're hoping to get some insights on how to help these kids even more with relationships," Guice said.
Chris Dodge, a dad from Findlay, said he came mostly to talk to J. Tracy Robinson, executive director of The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood. Dodge said he had been through a variety of issues with his oldest daughter a few years ago, when fewer resources and programs were available to fathers. He believes more child welfare reforms are needed.
Rebecca Herner, executive director of CASA for Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties, brought two volunteers and the CASA coordinator from Sandusky County. Herner said she would like to have a similar seminar for guardian ad litems.
"People who deal with families need to understand how important it is to have two parents in the picture," Herner said.
Another attendee was Mikki King, youth and family director for the YMCA in Tiffin. She said the conference informed her about different programs and resources available to fathers. It also got her thinking about dad-oriented programs the Y could add to their programming.
Wendy Zenisek, a service coordinator with Help Me Grow in Sandusky County, said she appreciated learning about some of the resources and programs available. She said part of her job is "getting people to buy into these programs." Zenisek said terminology in her paperwork, such as "primary caregiver," needs to be clarified. The person providing financial support could be considered a primary caregiver, even if he or she is not spending a lot of time with the child.
Zenisek also pointed out the role of fathers sometimes is overlooked, even in the naming of programs. As an example, she mentioned the Women, Infants and Children program, which suggests it is for women only; however, men also can learn about feeding and caring for babies. Mothers tend to be the focus when it comes to raising a family.
"We're right in their homes. If there is a man in the home, he usually has nothing to say or he may even leave the room," Zenisek said.
Tanya Halbeisen, a registered nurse with the Sandusky County Health Department, also is a Help Me Grow service coordinator for Clyde and Fremont. She said she was surprised at the variety of participants at the fatherhood summit.
"(The conference) is about getting you to think outside the box in working with families. The agencies can do more to work together and make referrals," Halbeisen said.
More information about The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood is available at www.fatherhood.ohio.gov.