Focusing on Fatherhood

Published 9:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

RICH SQUARE – Any man can be a father…it takes someone special to be a dad.

For Robert Chadwick, Montre Freeman and Chris Moody, that’s a lesson in life they teach every day.

Those three men stand at the forefront of the Fathers In Focus Network (FIFN), a program offered by Choanoke Area Development Association based in Rich Square.

FIFN is designed to promote responsible fatherhood, strengthen families and enhance the nurturing environment the children deserve and need.

“Working with Chris and Montre is great; we are all fathers ourselves and we understand the situation,” said Chadwick who, along with Freeman, serves as a FIFN Development Specialist.

Chadwick said the primary age group targeted by the program is 16-30.

“But we do service a diverse group of men…fathers, grandfathers, uncles; pretty much any man who is serving in a father-type role from ages 16 and up,” Chadwick noted.

Currently, the program boasts an enrollment of 75-to-80 men who hail from Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton counties. Once enrolled, these men are subject to a three-part program: Personal Development (teaching values and manhood); Life Skills (communication and decision making); and Responsible Fatherhood (the father’s influence on his children and how to build a child’s self-esteem).

“Sometimes it’s tough to tell a father how he can be a better dad, but we really feel this program is making a big impact,” Chadwick said.

The program only takes eight hours to complete. Chadwick said that could be spilt into a pair of four-hour sessions on Saturdays or one hour on eight Wednesdays.

“We work with these men to develop a plan that will best fit their schedules,” Chadwick stated.

To date, the FIFN has conducted meetings at the CADA office in Ahoskie, at New Ahoskie Baptist Church, at the sub station of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department and at various restaurants in the local area.

Chadwick said that to give the fathers some extra incentive to attend, the program offers gas cards and Wal Mart gift cards.

Recently, the program covered brand new territory with its presence inside a local high school.

“For the first time ever we were able to get into the public school system,” Chadwick stressed. “C.S. Brown High School (located in Winton) opened the door for us. We were able to recruit four teenage fathers who completed the eight-hour program.

“It worked out great…the support we had from C.S. Brown was great,” he continued. “Principal Nora Artis and Teresa Wiggins were super, along with the entire staff. They encouraged the young men to attend and have given us feedback of the changes they’ve seen in these young fathers. These young men were very receptive of our program.”

Chadwick added that he has launched dialogue with Hertford County High School officials.

“They are open to the Fathers In Focus program there,” he said.

FIFN is a federally funded program that operates through a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (the Office of Family Assistance). Of the 324 applications received nationwide, the Office of Family Assistance awarded 53, level 3 grants. CADA was the only North Carolina organization to receive grant funding for this category of family assistance programming.

“We feel this program is an asset to the community,” Chadwick concluded. “We encourage fathers of any age to contact us and let us help them become a better father.”

The next peer group session for the program is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 27 at New Ahoskie Baptist Church.

For more information, contact Chadwick (332-2692 or 578-2815) or Freeman (537-1111 or 578-9487).