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GBCA Head Start Fathers Work to Beat Fatherhood Odds: How this Fatherhood Support Group Helps Dads

Jersey City, NJ – Substantial father presence and participation is directly related to a child’s academic performance and behavioral tendencies, and the need to provide support specifically for Greater Bergen Community Action (GBCA) Head Start fathers was apparent in that fact, among many other statistics. Thus, in alignment with its mission to not only get the child ready for kindergarten, but to prepare the entire family for life beyond the program, the agency established Fatherhood Support Groups, made possible by a grant from the National Fatherhood Initiative for their “24/7 Dad” curriculum expansion.

Fatherhood Support Group member of GBCA’s Jersey City Head Start program, Clifford [last name], does all he can to ensure he’s part of the smaller statistic of 24/7 dads and to provide for his family.

“I consider myself to be a good dad, I try 100% and more. I work three jobs. I pretty much am kind of like the backbone of my family. But it’s not as hard as it seems – when you want to do it,” Clifford said.

Wanting to put in the work and maintain consistent involvement in their children’s lives is a common theme among this group of dads, but so was often having to bear the struggles that come with it alone.

“What I’ve learned from the Fatherhood Group and all of the other dads who are involved is that, first of all, I’m not the only one going through a struggle,” Clifford said. “I’m not the only one going through this. So when I see others, I learn from it.”

David Calderon not only takes his son to and from GBCA’s Jersey City Head Start program every day on time, but does his hair and gets him ready for the day every morning, too. He says he does all he can for his son, Cairo.

“At the time I am a single father, and doing the best I could for him,” Calderon said.

Inherent in upholding that responsibility is unwavering commitment, but David often finds comfort and relatability from his peers in the Fatherhood Support Group.

“It’s more of support. I have somebody to lean on, I have all these guys.”

The group, which isn’t just for fathers but also grandfathers and uncles, meets monthly to discuss topics such as:

  • Family history and how it effects parenting styles

  • What it means to be a man and how it relates to being a good father

  • Showing and dealing with feelings as part of good family communication

  • Working with mom and co-parenting, and

  • Different ways of disciplining

Fatherhood Support Group member, Santo [last name], was interested in joining the group to learn how to strengthen his relationship with his wife and stepchildren.

“What I’ve learned at all of the meetings is that we have to focus on the kids. The most important thing is the kids,” Santo said. “I learned how to communicate with my wife. I learned to have patience with the kids. I learned a lot, I like it” he added.

The next time these fathers will convene is at GBCA Jersey City Head Start’s annual Dads, Grandfathers, and Uncles Fatherhood Picnic on June 14th at 10:30am, where dads of the programs come together to celebrate the end of the school year for their children, and strengthen their bonds through fatherhood.


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