Fathers leading the way, building stronger families through fatherhood initiatives, workshops

While being an active parent can be challenging, Quintinn Hardwick, father of five girls, is encouraging dads this Father’s Day to stick with it.

“Some of the advice that I would give to some of the dads and new dads is keep going,” said Hardwick, who lives in Dayton and participates in the Montgomery County Fatherhood Initiative, a community resource dedicated to engaging fathers and helping them play an important role in their children’s lives.

Research shows fathers who are active parents improves health outcomes for the mother and baby. And that’s important in Montgomery County, which has a high infant mortality rate.

The infant mortality rate in Montgomery County is about 8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health, which is higher than the national average of 5.60 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

For portions of West Dayton and the west side of Montgomery County, the rate is 15 deaths per 1,000 lives births. For specifically Black women in Montgomery County, the rate is 16 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Beside healthy outcomes, being active in their children’s lives is a reward in and of itself, several fathers told the Dayton Daily News.

“They get to see the child grow up together in a safe environment,” Hardwick said. “...They get to see and play with their kids more.”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Giving fathers a helping hand

Area hospitals, Montgomery County and the public health department run a variety of courses to encourage both parents of a child to be involved in the birth and their child’s life and to help with the stresses of being parents.

Kettering Health offers a grant-funded Fatherhood Workshop in addition to its regular dads classes to provide education to dads and non-birthing partners.

Chris Adkins of Dayton participated in one of Kettering Health’s dads classes, which he said reinforced his knowledge of fatherhood, but also taught him new things, too.

“It was a good experience, a lot of reinforcing what I thought, and then they did show us some new stuff I didn’t know, which was really interesting,” Adkins said.

He learned about how fathers can also experience depression after the birth of their child while they adjust to their new sleep schedules and responsibilities. It is sometimes called paternal postpartum depression and is defined as a major depressive disorder.

The dads class also reinforced that fathers are in this experience together with the mother.

“We are a team, we are pregnant together...just making sure that we’re there for them,” Adkins said.

In addition to its dads class, Kettering Health is in the midst of hosting a National Fatherhood Initiative’s 24/7 Dad Key Behaviors Workshop.

“Research shows that when the father is involved in the child’s life in a healthy way, it leads to reduced infant and maternal mortality rates, regardless of the father’s relationship with the child’s mother,” said Michelle Beebe, manager of perinatal outreach and childbirth education at Kettering Health.

Paternal involvement reduces the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and fetal growth restriction, according to researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

“All the outcomes are better,” said Steve Makofka, the class facilitator. Makofka is a certified family life coach and educator with over 20 years of experience in supporting and educating local families.

“When dad shows up in a positive manner to be supportive, all the outcomes for mom change, all the outcomes for the babies are better and even the outcomes for dad,” said Makofka.

Without involved fathers, mothers have been found to smoke during and/or after pregnancy, as well as less likely to breastfeed or initiate prenatal care, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control.

An involved partner means better mental health for the mother, Beebe said, which is one of the drivers of pregnancy-related deaths.

In September 2022, the CDC found more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, according to 2017-2019 data from Maternal Mortality Review Committees. Approximately 23% of those pregnancy-related deaths were due to mental health conditions, including deaths to suicide and overdose/poisoning related to substance use disorder.

The series of free classes uses evidence-based curriculum to help participants build healthy behaviors, such as taking care of his physical and mental health, modeling healthy masculinity for his children, disciplining his children in healthy ways, and building and maintaining a healthy relationship with the mother of his children.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

“By equipping fathers with a skill set that will allow them to remain consistently and positively involved in their child’s care, we’re improving health outcomes not just for that specific family unit, but for generations to come,” Beebe said.

The program is funded by the Ohio Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and targets West Dayton due to the area’s high infant and maternal mortality rates and large concentration of one-parent families.

“A child needs their village. They need their community. And so we’re trying to be very intentional and mindful of the effective role that a father can have in a child’s life by being present,” Beebe said.

These grant-funded Fatherhood Workshop courses run through this week, but they will be offered again at the end of the summer, and they will start a cycle again in the fall.

For more information, call (937) 395-8600.

How to get help

----The Montgomery County Fatherhood Initiative, managed by the Montgomery County’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, is a program available to dads to keep both parents involved in a child’s life by connecting them with resources to overcome barriers in their lives, like housing, employment and more.

--- The Every Parent Matters program through Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County offers home visits to provide a hands-on approach to meet the specific needs of fathers.

“Fathers are essential in providing emotional security and support,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health. “Their involvement helps children develop a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence. A father’s presence can help significantly reduce behavioral problems, and increase social skills in children.”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

--- Public Health also offers a monthly Fatherhood Club meeting for area dads who are interesting in developing their skills. For more information, visit the events section on the Public Health website.

In many cases, these classes offered throughout the county provide support from other dads to help build their confidence and offer encouragement.

“Any father that see that has custody of their kids, I try to help out immensely, physically, verbally, spiritually with their child,” Hardwick said.

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