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Fathering a Brighter Future

Fatherhood Network Dad Cafe

There’s a lot that can be said for the effectiveness of support systems. They can give us the courage to take risks, the reassurance to trust our instincts, and the emotional availability to overcome our deepest insecurities. In other words, support systems help us unlock the truest version of ourselves. This week’s blog follows a local support system whose goal is to change the narrative around being a dad.

Created in 2016, the Fatherhood Network is a community support group that provides assistance for local fathers. Founding member Derek Miller sat down with us and explained how the group came to be.

“As fathers, we were all going through our own situations and found that there were no services that we could turn to.” Miller said of the group’s inception. “We decided to create something that would fulfill this need.”

As the father of a four-year-old son, Miller knows firsthand how difficult it can be for parents without community support.

“My son was having medical issues after he was born,” he shared. “My wife was getting a lot of wonderful support; however, I wasn’t finding any resources that I could turn to. No dad should go through these kinds of struggles by himself.”

Community-oriented in its focus, the Fatherhood Network creates a space for dads to meet in groups and hold discussions on the issues and topics that they face. Programs like Barbershop Talks and Dad Café provide attendees with the opportunity to share their experiences and grow as fathers.

“Our group events allow dads to connect with the resources that they need,” Miller explained. “For example, there was a dad who had just gotten full custody of his kids but didn’t know what to do next. The group was able to connect him with resources that fully furnished his apartment.”

Fatherhood Network’s ability to provide support like this is thanks in part to its partnership with the 4Dad Fatherhood Program (4Dad), a part of Kalamazoo County’s Health and Community Services Department. As a Care Coordinator for 4Dad, Miller’s work sees him interact regularly with members of the Fatherhood Network.

“It is my job to meet with dads in one-on-one settings,” he said. “During the Fatherhood Network meetings, I connect fathers with community resources, provide them with information on childhood development, and assist in establishing familial goals, among many other things.”

Being involved with such a supportive group has given Miller insight on what being a dad is all about and how to handle the hurdles that it presents.

“Fatherhood is like flying an airplane and putting it together at the same time,” Miller described. “You don’t always know what you’re doing, but you continue to try your best until something works. It’s about accepting that you’re completely flawed but your kids will love you and think you’re a superhero.”

Want to Learn More? Fatherhood Network will host a Dad Café event on Monday, January 27 from 6-8 P.M. at Kalamazoo RESA’s West Campus. Free dinner will be provided, and any interested dads are encouraged to attend.

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