Strengthening families one dad at a time

Executive Director Jule Goodwin and her volunteers at the Highlands Community Pregnancy Care Centre (HCPCC) have been quietly but tremendously helping in the community for years. Many of us are only aware of their existence with their yearly baby bottle campaigns, or perhaps on a trip to the downstairs loo in the Stedmans building!

The Highlander recently ran the following story, by Lisa Harrison, on a successful new HCPCC program focusing on the importance of healthy male role models for families.

             Julie & Terry Goodwin, NFP grad  Gary Jenkins, Doug Ross

             Julie & Terry Goodwin, NFP grad Gary Jenkins, Doug Ross

Gary Jenkins smiles broadly as he holds up his graduation certificate. It’s the first one he’s ever received, and now he’s keen to get many more.

What’s truly unique is his choice of course to achieve it: the Nurturing Father’s Program (NFP) created by Mark Perlman, a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator. The county’s first 12-week NFP was run by the Highlands Community Pregnancy Care Centre (HCPCC) this spring. Single father Jenkins and four other dads graduated in June.

Jenkins, 26, is by turns quiet and exuberant. He has two sons and would like a bigger role in their lives. “I’m beyond patient now,” says Jenkins. “I do everything different now. My whole life’s kind of changed in a way.”

HCPCC provides pre- and post-delivery support to women faced with an unplanned pregnancy and support for post-abortion trauma. Executive Director Julie Goodwin says clients often wish similar versions of some support programs were available for fathers. Goodwin recently took a webinar featuring the NFP and found it was designed for a wide audience – not only single dads, but also perhaps a teacher who recognizes he’s a role model, or a grandfather raising his grandchild.

NFP topics include discipline without violence, managing anger and resolving conflict, communication and problem-solving, teamwork with spouse/partner, and the joys of fathering. Goodwin proposed the program to the HCPCC board. Director Ron Mahler watched the webinar and recommended purchasing the curriculum. The board approved. The course and materials were free to participants thanks to several community partners.

When the non-profit HCPCC sent out letters requesting support, “I was blown away by the response,” says Goodwin. “It was a tremendous encouragement.”

Mahler and Goodwin’s husband Terry, who has 25 years of social services experience, served as trained facilitators. “For me it was a no-brainer,” says Terry. “The program uses a lot of the same premises that different cognitive behavioural approaches use – anger management, partner assault.”

The group found space at Haliburton’s Full Gospel Lighthouse. Pastor Doug Ross dropped in halfway through the program and stayed on.

“I saw the reaction of the young men as they were just readily receiving all this information, that they could change their lives, they could become better dads, and they were so willing to accept the responsibility,” says Ross.

Jenkins was seven when his father died. Essentially he was raised by his grandfather. “He taught me to be responsible,” says Jenkins. “I guess I was just too young and arrogant. I wasn’t listening, but I never forgot.” Jenkins was recently released from jail after 11 months. He moved away from his old friends and accompanying temptations, settled in the county, took the NFP program and joined a 12-step program.

Ross and the Goodwins talk about the connections that developed among the program facilitators and participants despite age differences.

“Men being men, they don’t talk about this stuff,” says Terry. “This was sort of a safe place, and it took a while to get there where they would talk, but then they would see the other two facilitators [Doug and Ron] had some of the same struggles as they had, so they would relate and open up and talk about it.”

“Take the program,” Jenkins recommends. “It’s very, very worth it, and you’re going to see some changes, very good, big changes in your life and your family’s life. It’s definitely going to make a difference for the kids, and guaranteed that the mothers are going to be ten times better,” he continues. “We do the program, we understand the program … she just sees the change that you are doing [for] you and your children.”

“You’re wise beyond your years, young man,” says Ross. “It took me 40 years to realize that.”

Jenkins says he plans to take the course again. Goodwin and Ross are also planning a monthly get-together to provide continued support and fellowship for the grads.

"Please spread the word to the men you know who are fulfilling this role," says Julie. "Whether a new dad, a teen dad, a grandfather, an uncle, a nurturing father is one who actively provides guidance, love and support to enhance the development and growth of children he cares for."

For more information on this or other HCPCC programs or services – which receive no government funding and rely entirely on donations from the community – please call 705-457-4673.