Helping men ‘dad up’

Linda Detroy Alexander
Posted 12/16/10

These days, Al Squire is changing the diapers of his 13-month-old son — lots of diapers. Charles Wood is monitoring his 14-year-old daughter’s …

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Helping men ‘dad up’

Posted

These days, Al Squire is changing the diapers of his 13-month-old son — lots of diapers.

Charles Wood is monitoring his 14-year-old daughter’s computer use to know whom she’s talking to online.

And Jeremy Stollerman is reading books to his 2-year-old son and taking him on play dates.

All three men are spending more time with their children, and making it quality time, thanks to the Jefferson County Fatherhood Program and its director, Ray Washington.

“When dads are involved in their children’s lives,” Washington said, “the children do better – financially, educationally, emotionally and socially.”

The Fatherhood Program is designed to help non-custodial parents identify and overcome barriers to maintaining an active role in their children’s lives.

Washington said the program’s three main goals are helping its customers become current on child support payments, working with the co-parent to get access to their children and helping them find stable employment.

“When you stabilize the dad,” he said, “you stabilize the family, and that helps stabilize a community.”

To accomplish all that, Washington and his colleagues are developing relationships with courts, human services and community agencies, such as Jefferson County Mediation Services and child support officers, to provide wraparound services. Washington sees no point in reinventing the wheel so customers can get the help they need, whether that is developing a working relationship with the mother or father of their children, finding a job or dealing with drug abuse or domestic violence issues.

Part of the Jefferson County Child Support Services Office, the Fatherhood Program was created in 2006 when the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division, received a $10 million federal grant to be distributed over five years. From that grant, Washington’s program receives about $30,000 a year.

The impetus for the program came from experiences in the Jeffco Child Support Services Office.

“During my years in the program, I kept hearing the frustration of the dads,” Child Support Services Program Manager Debbie Moss said. “One of the reasons people don’t pay their support is that they can’t see their kids. Getting involved seemed like the reasonable thing to do.”

The program also offers training and fatherhood classes, one-on-one coaching and a support group.

“What I like about Ray’s group,” Squire, of Littleton, said, “is that it’s not threatening. It’s informative, and it’s about becoming a better man so I can get along with my son’s mom and be a better father.”

So far, Washington said, the program has resulted in 100 children having better access to their fathers, and more than $100,000 in child support payments had been made for children who had not been receiving financial support from their fathers in 2010. In 2009, the program resulted in more than $400,000 in child support payments.

Through it all, the program’s customers are also learning about themselves.

“My inability to communicate what I wanted in the correct way and my son’s mother’s lack of trust in me as an adult and a father were definitely issues,” Stollerman said.

Stollerman, of Lakewood, took the woman to court and gained visitation rights.

“After the court date, our entire situation has taken a complete 180,” he said. “I think I showed her my ability and my willingness to go to these lengths and to not take more than I deserved. She knows I understand that our son needs her and me equally.”

With the increase in the number of non-custodial mothers, the program now includes a number of women.

Nicole Whitney was away from her children, now 15 and 9, for six years, three of which she spent in prison on charges relating to her drug use. While incarcerated, she sorted out her priorities and got a cosmetology license.

“I came out determined to get my kids back,” she said. “I had no contact with them, and their dad wouldn’t even give them my letters.”

Whitney landed a job at a hair salon, then contacted the Jefferson County Child Support office. She got a phone call from Washington.

“Ray helped me with all the paperwork,” she said. “He went with me to three of my court dates and spoke up for me. Ray walked the whole walk with me.”

First Whitney was allowed supervised visits, then unsupervised visits, and now the children live with her in Northglenn.

“I get to take them to school,” she said, “I get to check their homework. I get to tuck them in at night and make sure my daughter has her two stuffed animals.”

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