Becoming one of five locations in the state to offer Daddy Boot Camp continues to grow Bartow Family Resources, which aims to offer services to the family from counseling to educational classes.
“[Children who grow up without a father are] at least two or three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to be victims of child abuse. ... The girls are eight times more likely to be teen moms, which really affects what we do, and nearly three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock,” said Bartow Family Resources Executive Director Maryland Guthas. “It’s just staggering the effect the daddy has in the home.”
After visiting a similar agency, the local nonprofit saw firsthand the benefit of programs such as Daddy Boot Camp on the family.
“We visited an organization in Chattanooga last year called First Things First, huge pro-family organization, secular not faith-based. They have been around about 20 years, and since they’ve implemented things like Daddy Boot Camp and lots of things we do through the Relationship Center ..., they have seen their divorce rate drop in Chattanooga since First Things First has been there,” Guthas said. “We started at ways we could engage that dad from the earliest point and keep him engaged. From what I’ve read, dads at the time of birth think they’re going to be part of their child’s life, but five years down the road, he’s already split up with momma and they’ve gone separate ways and he’s lost touch with the kids.”
Daddy Boot Camp is a program offered across the nation — with Bartow Family Resources joining Northside Hospital Atlanta and the three military hospitals as Georgia locations. The three-hour course on Saturday mornings offers first-time dads hands-on coaching on everything from feeding and soothing a newborn to safely using baby equipment.
“I think it was Sigmund Freud who said, ‘There’s no greater need in childhood than the need for the father’s protection.’ Emotionally, the impact of the dad in a life is so much more powerful than what anybody expected,” Guthas said. “And, I just think, when you look at those statistics that I just quoted, that tells a story. A kid needs their dad, and not just a stepdad, a kid needs their biological dad in their life.”
Following last year’s Night of Life banquet, father of four Kevin Black said he decided to become involved with Bartow Family Resources and Daddy Boot Camp was the perfect fit.
“I own a construction business and the young men that I hire to work for me and the young men I work with at church in our youth group, just seeing the way things are going, I realized this is a real problem, that young people were growing up in homes with one parent or blended families, the birth dad was not around a lot of times,” he said. “I realized the need for this automatically when Cindy [Smith, Relationship Center director,] described it to me. I realized what they were shooting at because I had been living through this for several years working with young people.
“It really seemed a good thing to start at day one and get the dads on the ground and the first day of the child’s life and encourage them. I was not one that was around young people — my brother is only two years younger than me — the first diaper that I changed was my first-born son. I remember how terrified I was going into that. That first night with a new baby for me was frightening. ... You realize you are responsible for a very young, vulnerable life.”
Black and three other male coaches — all fathers — will offer instruction for fathers during the course.
“The idea is that it’s not us as teachers teaching curriculum. We are coaches and you’re coaching a conversation. ... The idea is that through the course of laying out some things and kind of talking out our fears or concerns they can see feeding, changing, soothing newborns,” Black said. “It’s really a opportunity for them to learn more from the new dads by seeing them with their child and that this is something men should do and that’s very easy to do really than it is about information. We do give them information. There is a lot of safety stuff that we go over. We talk about car seats, the right kind of equipment and the importance of filing warranty cards to make sure that you know about possible recalls on baby equipment.
“... It’s really neat to watch them get advice from these dads that are in the trenches right now. The idea is, it is coached by dads. It is coached by men with children, who have raised children. We’ve got some battle stories and you kind of laugh at the things that tend to scare new dads.”
Guthas said the program, which launched the pilot session in September, will be offered once per month and is open to the community.
“There were 1,476 babies born in Bartow County last year. ... A lot of them ... are going to be repeat dads. ... Out of that number, a significant number are going to be new dads. The need is definitely there. Of course, we want to extend this to our clients, but it is going to be for the whole community,” she said. “... We are faith-based, yes, but this program is very secular. It’s just a hands-on, really nitty-gritty, get in there and learn about how to put a baby in a car seat, pick up, all those things that those dads are so intimidated by.”
Black also extended the invitation to those outside the agency’s circle of clients.
“This is not an emergency thing, this is not crisis pregnancy counseling,” he said. “You might be a 35-year-old professional that’s having your first kid. You might be a 19 years old and just out of school and having your first kid. It does not matter. It does not matter [about] economic class. ... This is really for any man who is having his first child.”
Participants also do not have to worry about mom looking over their shoulder during the course.
“Women are generally experts. My wife and her sisters always baby-sat. They were always around little kids and they always had friends. They magnet to little kids, and you know, dads don’t do that. It’s really an environment where you don’t have to ... If women were in the room, it’s like there is always an expert grading you and correcting you,” Black said. “This is really, ‘Dads can take care of kids. You don’t have to do everything the way the mom does.’
“... I just read an article on the importance of fatherhood in the Huffington Post, and it was talking about the importance of the dad not parenting like the mom. Mom is generally the protector, and dad is the encourager. ... There is a difference in the roles we want to encourage them into as well.”
For more information on Daddy Boot Camp or Bartow Family Resources, call 770-382-7224, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.bartowfamilies.com.