Fatherhood is the focus of an initiative in Detroit started by the group 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit with support from Focus: HOPE. The “Extraordinary Fathers Academy of Detroit at Focus Hope” is looking to strengthen families by empowering fathers with tangible skills.
According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children in America, or about one out of three children, now live in homes without their biological fathers.
The initial class is helping 17 men that are clients of Focus: HOPE’s various training programs, including the Machinist Training Institute (MTI). The men volunteered for the program, in addition to the other assistance they are getting.
“The goal is to provide these young men with the skills, confidence and attitude to be a positive part of their children’s lives,” according to Bill Middlebrooks, former president of 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit, author and organizer of the program.
The curriculum, under the tag, “Fathers making a difference, one family as a time,” is derived from the National Fatherhood Initiative out of Washington, D.C. and from Middlebrooks’ book “Dare to be Extraordinary – A Collection of Positive Life Lessons from African American Fathers.”
“The book is a tribute to and testimony of fatherhood, particularly in the African-American community. I profile some famous and some not-so-famous people about the impact fathers made on their lives,” he adds.
The goal of the book and program is to bend the curve for families – reducing the number of homes without fathers in the community. He also looks to change the perception and reality of African-American fatherhood.
“I really want to make a 180 degree turn in my life and be there for my kids,” said Gregory Stephens who is a 30-year-old MTI participant and father of five that was eager to sign up for the program. Stephens is recently married and is raising his two sons (ages three months and 10 years) with his bride. His other three children live with their mother.
When Stephens was younger, a Detroit police officer in his neighborhood he knew as Sergeant Carey mentored him for a number of years. “Now, I just want to be a better father and a better man,” he added.
William F. Jones, Jr., president/CEO of Focus: HOPE said, “In order to build strong neighborhoods, we must develop strong families in the African-American community. Our HOPE Village Initiative focuses on providing opportunities and support for children, while our education and job training programs enable parents to reach their full potential. The Extraordinary Fathers Academy of Detroit is a natural fit that will help us to further strengthen our efforts.”
William Luse, current president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit says, “This partnership expands and deepens our on-going commitment to serve our community and we are proud to work with Focus: HOPE and the program participants.”
During the 18-week program (offered in two nine week semesters), participants come together for half day, hands-on, non-judgmental engagement and exchanges to help them become more aware of their importance in the lives of their children and being positively present and involved in their family and community.
Each participant receives a workbook, journal and a copy of Middlebrooks’ book, along with intense mentoring during and after the program. “As members of the 100 (100 Black Men), we believe in mentoring across a lifetime,” Middlebrooks added.
Each participant was given a skills and attitude pre-assessment to see where their mindset is as they come into the program. After the second semester, a post-assessment will give organizers and the fathers an idea of their progress.
Weekly topics of discussion and instruction include, What it Means to be a Man, Discipline, Working with Mom and Co-Parenting, Dealing with Anger, Showing and Handling Feelings and Excellence as a Way of Life, Everyday.
The Extraordinary Fathers Academy of Detroit is giving these 17 men almost everything they need to be a good father. According to Middlebrooks, “The only thing we can’t give you is motivation. Your actions mean more than your words.”
The Academy is hoping to build fathers that C.A.R.E. for their children – men that are: Committed, Active, Relevant and Equipped.
For more information on The Extraordinary Fathers Academy, visit their website at ExtraordinaryFathers.com.