‘This Is So Critical for Dads.’: Program Helps Fathers Navigate the Parenting Journey

August 31, 2023




By Voleer Thomas for the Gainesville Guardian | USA TODAY NETWORK

Fathers have the opportunity to receive guidance for free to help them on their fatherhood journey. T.E.A.M. Dad was launched to help fathers increase their awareness and knowledge about what it takes to be a good father. T.E.A.M. Dad stands for Teaching, Empowering, Advocating for and Mentoring. The program currently operates in 16 counties: Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union.

Its goal is to help men on their fatherhood journey. The program encourages fathers, grandfathers or role models involved with a child younger than 3 or men with a pregnant partner to enroll.

“This is giving fathers a voice,” said Joseph Neal, a father and the T.E.A.M. Dad coordinator. “We do home visits and we talk about what they need to do to go about things the correct way without bringing conflict to the family. Though we provide advice and helpful information, T.E.A.M. Dad is not a parenting class, it’s a supportive relationship where dads can learn and grow.”

Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill (HB 7065) that provides about $70 million to bolster programs aimed at equipping dads with parenting resources and helping foster youth.

T.E.A.M. Dad is overseen by Healthy Start of North Central Florida Coalition and Central Healthy Start Coalition, which are affiliate partners of the WellFlorida Council.

The program provides mentees with a T.E.A.M. Dad support specialist, who is a father and/or who has received extensive training in the 24/7 Dad® curriculum to meet with fathers for a series of 12 sessions. Sessions are held at a convenient time and place for the participant.

Some of the topics for the sessions include the father’s role in the family, discipline, self-worth, children’s growth, communication, working with mom and co-parenting.

Adam Mayhew, a father and one of the T.E.A.M. Dad peer support specialists, said his parents inspired him to make a difference in people’s lives through mentorship.

“I wanted to find something to help families before bad things happen,” Mayhew said.
He also said witnessing his mother being a part of a non-profit organization for about a decade inspired him to make a difference.

“She taught me the value of community and the importance of being in the community to make a change,” Mayhew said. “It makes me become a better dad and helps me communicate with my wife better.”

According to T.E.A.M. Dad, involved fathers can have a positive effect on their children: 55% are more likely to go to college, 43% are more likely to earn A’s in school, 80% are less likely to spend time in jail, and 46% are less likely to use drugs.

“I see this program as an opportunity to learn, grow and continue to be better fathers,” Winley said. “Fatherhood never stops.”

Winley said this program is unprecedented and encourages fathers to talk about sensitive topics such as grieving and coping with miscarriages and more.

“There’s usually support for mothers and children,” Winley said. “This is so critical for dads.”

To enroll in the program call Connect at 877-678-WELL or text 352-415-0091, or learn more by visiting EveryBabyDeservesAHealthyStart.org.

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