CDR Fatherhood Program empowers dads

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

When expectant fathers complete the "Rookie Dads" class offered by Child Development Resources, they walk away, physically, with a diaper bag designed for dads.

But Nick Corsi, class instructor, sees soon-to-be dads leave with much more.

"Most that come in are very nervous, being a first time parent," said Corsi, a fatherhood consultant at CDR. "Building their confidence and getting their feedback: where they came in scared to death, not knowing what they were going to do, and then walking out with the confidence that they can care for this child and be successful in it."

Offered monthly at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Rookie Dads classes will start up at two other locations in February; it's one result of the growth of CDR's Fatherhood Program.

Amy Bornhoft, CDR's Director of Training, said the Fatherhood Program has existed for close to 10 years, but services offered varied with available funding. A $682,981 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, renewable for five years, has more recently allowed the program stability and the chance for growth.

"It's great to have the opportunity to go back to a full-service program for dads and really address a variety of needs, and that's what this funding does," said Bornhoft, who oversees the program.

Before receiving the federal grant, Bornhoft said the program largely operated with grant funding from the Virginia Department of Social Services. This allowed for the Rookie Dads class at Sentara, monthly family events, home visits performed by one fatherhood consultant and the Linkages Program for dads in Peninsula Regional Jail offered in partnership with Family Focus.

The program, formally called "Investing in Fatherhood," now has three full-time consultants and one part-time Spanish-speaking consultant. Bornhoft said one of the most important areas of growth was partnering with the Center for Child and Family Services to offer services that target workforce development and money management. CDR also plans to host a statewide fatherhood conference in the fall.

Though awarded the federal grant in October of 2015, Bornhoft said the first year largely involved getting the program running. The program received approval to work with families this past July.

The organization's 2015-2016 annual report tallied around 150 home visits made by fatherhood consultants and one-on-one meetings with 31 dads. Bornhoft estimated consultants are currently working 15 to 20 dads.

Corsi said he's worked with dads of many backgrounds, whether employed or homeless, single or married.

"I try to take the dads where they're at, what their life experience is, what their culture is, and then take the principles and tools they need to parent with their own value system in place," he said.

Essentially, Corsi and other consultants walk alongside the fathers and families. He recently worked with a dad in a crisis situation.

"We were able to give him not only parenting and relationship stuff, but to help (the family) through that crisis with encouragement, with support, with guidance," he said.

Bornhoft believes the program empowering.

"This is something for dads that just allows them to have information and resources so that they, too, know what to expect and can make determinations and assessments of their own," she said.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

For more information or to speak with a Fatherhood Consultant, visit cdr.org/fatherhood or call 757-378-3177. You can also contact Child Development Resources at 757-566-3300.

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