Calgary

Calgary program helps teen dads be the best parents they can be

November is Family Violence Prevention Month, and the Alberta government is taking the opportunity to highlight a program that focuses on supporting teen dads.

Fathers Moving Forward teaches young dads to co-parent, be role models

Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir holds Cereniti, the daughter of Donovan Wandell, a participant in the Fathers Moving Forward program. (Mike Symington/CBC)

November is Family Violence Prevention Month, and the Alberta government is taking the opportunity to highlight one of Canada's first research-based programs that focuses on supporting teen dads.

Fathers Moving Forward is one of 64 community programs intended to combat family violence that's received funding from the province.

Positive role models

The program supports fathers or fathers-to-be between the ages of 16 and 24 to help them be involved parents, co-parent with their child's mother (whether they are together or not) and be a positive role model for their kids. 

"Communities are only as strong as how they serve their most vulnerable, and these young fathers, we can either support them to step up and become contributing members or they're going to look to belong somewhere else and it's usually not in a place we want them to belong," said Patricia Jones, CEO of Catholic Family Service, the organization that runs the program.

"We know that kids need both parents, we know that these young fathers want to step up and we're trying to resist the narrative in the community that they're not useful, they're deadbeat  that they're dangerous. They're anything but," she said.

Patricia Jones is the CEO of Catholic Family Service, the organization that runs the Fathers Moving Forward program. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"They are fathers that want to be in the lives of their children and research shows that it's important that they're in the lives of their children."

Approximately 20 fathers have gone through the program, which began two years ago, Jones told CBC News.

The first phase of the program is a co-parenting group that begins before the baby is born, the second is a father's-only group and the third focuses on financial literacy and job placement skills. 

Fathers Moving Forward also offers individual counselling for dads.

'We didn't know a lot of things'

"You can never be prepared enough until the baby is born. It's really scary, but as soon as you hold your little baby in your arms, it's absolutely amazing," said Donovan Wandell, 20.

Wandell is the proud dad of a baby girl, Cereniti, and a participant in the program.

After his girlfriend got pregnant, the pair got involved with the Louise Dean Centre, a school for pregnant and parenting teens. The centre put them in touch with the Fathers Moving Forward program.

"The relationship isn't hard, but if we didn't open our eyes to key things like support and when to do things, or how to help, or when to help, we would be having a hard time trying to figure out those things," Wandell said.

"We didn't know a lot of things. They really break it down, like stress relievers.

"If you want to be happy and if you want to take [parenting] seriously, join the group."

Corrections

  • In an earlier version of this story, the Louise Dean Centre was incorrectly described as a support group for pregnant and parenting teens. In fact, it is a school for teenage mothers. The Grade 9-12 facility is run by the Calgary Board of Education.
    Oct 31, 2017 9:57 AM MT

With files from Mike Symington

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