Did you give or receive a gift or homemade card, or spend some quality time on Sunday 19th June for father's day? Sadly, this won't be the case for all dads. Increasingly the relationship between young dads, in particular, and their children is breaking down all too quickly. It's heartbreaking to see more and more children growing up without their fathers, and more and more young men left feeling guilty, overwhelmed and dejected.
At Romsey Mill we are working hard to turn this situation around, empowering these young men to become great dads, teaching them about responsibility and equipping them for fatherhood. We are passionate about young fathers having a positive influence on the life of their child.
Young fathers work was developed from our award winning Young Parents Programme. Following a successful pilot in 2010, we have now engaged with 67 young fathers between the ages of 15 and 25. Young fathers like Darren…
Darren* only found out that he had become a teenage father the day his son was born. Neither Darren nor his girlfriend were aware of the pregnancy. He had no one to turn to for support or guidance, no time to prepare. His own dad had recently passed away and as a result of a subsequent family dispute he had to leave his family home and was now living with his girlfriend's mother. Darren was no longer attending school, he had no job and had not enrolled in any form of training to help improve his circumstances. He had rejected any support or help from social services and similar organizations.
Jason Gosling, Romsey Mill's Young Father's Worker, began to engage with Darren on a one to one basis through home visits and informal meetings. This enabled him to build trust, and to support Darren to explore his relationship with his child, his rights and responsibilities as a father, progressing into employment and the importance of engaging with Social Services.
As a result Darren is now feeling more positive about his future. He has started to engage with Social Services and has not missed an appointment since. He has also started to engage with the local Connexions service and I am happy to report has just attended his first job interview. He now comes to the regular Romsey Mill 'Dads' Brunch' with his child, helping him to build a peer support network in the community.
* Name has been changed
Why is this work important?
A recent research paper by the Fatherhood Institute found that young fathers frequently face rejection by their families and are often forbidden contact with their child and the mother. As a result they tend to believe that they are unwelcome and will never be a good dad. They are unprepared, practically and emotionally, for fatherhood and have generally little or no knowledge of the various stages of infant development. Most worrying of all, the research highlights that some will have difficulty in controlling their tempers, which results in expressing negative parenting attitudes and behaviours. Indeed they may be more likely than older fathers to be violent towards their partners and possibly their children.
Our young fathers project aims to break the negative cycle of disadvantage by improving the lives of both the father and child and ultimately the family unit. In our first year Jason has helped 41 young fathers to take part in some positive activities with their children, 22 have been supported through home visiting, 12 through specialist courses to help with self esteem, 9 to address social care issues and supported 6 to progress into sustainable employment and further education.
However, due to cuts in statutory funding and the general economic climate, we are now facing a shortfall for this year and a degree of uncertainty in regard to next year.
The harsh reality is that young dads still need support, whether there is funding available or not.
How you can help
I am asking that you consider either giving a one off gift towards this work or indeed to partner with us over a longer period by committing to a regular standing order. Young fathers need consistent, rather than one-off, support so your partnership will help meet that need. I have highlighted below the difference even the smallest monthly amount can make towards this vitally important programme.
£5 per month helps towards…
...activities (e.g. swimming, wildlife parks) that create the opportunity for young fathers to spend time with their child in a positive environment, focusing on strengthening the father-child bond.
£10 per month helps towards…
...father friendly ante-natal classes. These are designed to equip young fathers for, and educate them about, pregnancy, labour and the early years with the child.
£15 per month helps towards…
...positive activities (football, boxing etc) which focus on building peer support, developing confidence and self esteem and reducing social isolation.
£20 per month helps towards…
...courses focusing on developing key skills such as literacy, numeracy and CV writing in addition to confidence and self esteem.
£25 per month helps towards…
...one-to-one support in regard to benefits, housing and access, in addition to emotional support, information, advice and guidance on a range of issues.
If you are able to support us financially please donate now! We really do appreciate your generosity.