T.E.A.M. Dad Available in North Central Florida

August 22, 2023




Main Street Daily News
By Glory Reitz

T.E.A.M. Dad, a branch of HealthyStart, recently extended its coverage to 16 counties in North Central Florida. The free home visiting program currently has three coaches, each working with about eight men.

Coaches work with fathers and father figures to improve their fatherhood knowledge and skills, and to increase their confidence in the role they fill in a child’s life. T.E.A.M. Dad Coordinator Joseph Neal said many fathers want to be involved in their children’s lives but do not know where to start.

“You don’t think that dads really have a lot to say because we traditionally don’t have a lot to say, but they really do,” Neal said in a phone interview. “They really want to know how to be more involved.”

The program is intended for father figures of children from prenatal to two and a half years old, including fathers, grandfathers and role models. Neal said the only male caregivers they cannot serve are those who have no contact with the child, or who are already using another home visit program. The second condition is a requirement of Florida law.

The coaches schedule times with individual fathers, grandfathers and role models to walk them through a 12-session course from the 24/7 Dad® curriculum. Neal said coaches try to meet with each father every one or two weeks, but they adjust according to the fathers’ needs.

The sessions address family history, what it means to be a man, feelings, men’s health, communication, the father’s role in the family, discipline as a positive experience, children’s growth, getting involved without taking over the mother’s role, working with mothers and work/life balance.

Neal said the studies are personalized to make the fathers feel comfortable learning. He said sessions in the home are preferable, but if a father would feel more comfortable talking about touchy subjects in a park or library, coaches are willing to move. If one of the sessions, such as the one addressing emotions, is difficult to talk about, Neal said the coach may split it up over multiple meetings.

“We try to help them gain the tools that they need to be better at the things they’re doing as far as parenting,” Neal said. “And it’s a learning experience for me and my staff. We’re not Ph.D. dads. We’ve all been fathers, we’ve all made mistakes. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.”

The counties covered in the Central and North Central Florida region include Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union.

To enroll, father figures can call 877-678-WELL or text 352-415-0091. For more information, click here for the Florida Healthy Start T.E.A.M. Dad web page.

Read the online article.

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