Fathering 101 classes

June 16, 2008 2:09:44 PM PDT
Parenthood doesn't come with an instruction manual. However, there is a program in Philadelphia that gives men important lessons on how to be better fathers.

Twice a week, a center city meeting room turns into a classroom, where fathers hone their parenting skills.

'Focus on Fathers' is the only program of its kind in Philadelphia. It focuses on building better parent-child relationships.

D'Juan Diggs discovered the program when he and his young family were in a city shelter.

Diggs says being in a shelter made him feel inadequate.

But 'Focus on Fathers' helped rebuild his pride, and give him the tools he needed to deal with tough issues, yet remain close to his children.

Diggs says, "It's a learning experience every day for me."

Now, Diggs helps run the 11-week course, which tackles a different topic every week.

Some men are assigned to the class by family services, others just learn about it by word of mouth.

Program director Sulaiman Wood smiled as he told Action News, "We go out to the neighborhoods, basketball courts, barber shops, newspapers, e-mai blasts - anything we can to get the word out."

Wood says men can nurture as well as women, but they do it differently.

He says research shows dads are essential for emotionally-healthy children. He says, "Fathers actually help children learn how to manage their feelings."

Even after 8 children, Lamar Mitchell of Southwest Philadelphia says this class changed him as a dad.

Mitchell told Action News, "When I first came, I already thought I was a great parent. But I learned responsive parenting - what to expect when a child grows up, what to look for."

Program leaders would love to get more funding....to bring 'Focus on Fathers' to more dads.