By Tina Adkins
My friend and colleague at Wayne State University School of Social Work, Dr. Carolyn Dayton, called me one day this Spring and said: “Tina, you are never going to believe what this man is doing in Detroit – he’s some kind of natural born social worker!” She proceeded to tell me about Willie Bell, who found himself a single black father at 25, who owed child support he couldn’t pay and saw no hope because he was part of a system that penalized fathers instead of finding them the help they needed to be the fathers they really wanted to be. As a result, he was inspired to create an educational program for fathers like himself and one that helped connect them to resources such as job placement or GED services. Then he started knocking on doors, became an advocate, and got judges to listen to him about all the needs of these fathers and the different ways the community can help them. He emphasized that by helping fathers, you were helping their children too. His community listened and he has been running the non-profit Family Assistant for Renaissance Men (FARM), which helps disenfranchised fathers be part of their children’s lives again. Dr. Dayton then said “he wants to help these fathers in an even deeper way…help them create more meaningful and resilient relationships with their children and I thought of your Family Minds intervention.” So here starts our new collaboration! Our plan is to insert a version of Family Minds into the educational program fathers already receive from FARM.
Family Minds is essentially a parenting intervention. It is presently designed for foster/adoptive parents but that is just content. The foundation and principles apply to all parents. The goal is to help parents deepen their relationship to their child by helping them see more clearly inside the mind of their child while seeing and understanding their own mind and reactions as well.
In May, I worked on creating a new version of this intervention: Family Minds for Fathers. In this version, we have exercises and examples that appeal more to fathers. Additionally, since this version will be presented to a minority population in Detroit, I have added more information about community and systemic trauma and its impact on parenting and childhood. Dr. Dayton will pilot this version this summer and using the fathers’ feedback, we will hopefully be able to strengthen the parenting intervention and create something that really works for fathers. Then, we hope to find funding to run a research study where we can exam outcomes for these fathers who attend Family Minds for Fathers. Hopefully, it will create similar positive outcomes as we are finding for foster parents.