Earl Betts, facilitator of the Fatherhood Support and Education group, poses for a photo. His monthly class at Tutu’s House, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., on the first Wednesday of the month, is geared to supporting fathers and helping to nourish good parenting. (PHOTO BY SARAH ANDERSON| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The Family Support Hawaii program and the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative are offering a fatherhood support and education group, which will meet on the first Wednesday of every month. The initiative is in response to the dramatic trend in fatherlessness in America. According to the National Center for Fathering, there’s a crisis at hand, with father-absence affecting about 27 million children in America.
According to the group facilitator, Earl Betts, the initiative responds to escalating social concerns regarding “father absence” by providing fathers with access to services designed to prepare them to better meet the emotional, psychological, and financial needs of their children.
Current research links fatherlessness to higher rates of poverty, failure in school, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, violent crime, depression, and ultimately a loss of hope. The mission of the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative is for every father onHawaii Island to have a productive and positive relationship with his children because fathers matter.
“Most of the fathers who attend the group are grateful for the parenting techniques they learn and feel it really helps them be a better parent,” said Betts. “It helps them with their children, their wife, or in many cases their ex-wife. Ninety percent of the problems in the home, whether it’s with the spouse or the children are communication related, so we really focus on communication skills.”
Research shows that children thrive when they have an involved father—someone who loves them, knows them, guides them, and helps them achieve their dreams. The Fatherhood Support and Education group inspires and educates men on the importance of being the kind of father their children need.
The Initiative seeks to strengthen families in our community by encouraging fathers to play a more active role in nurturing and raising their children.
The intention of this monthly group session is to build a social support network for fathers; to increase fathers’ involvement in the lives of children; to promote responsible, culturally sensitive fathering practices and to support positive family functioning and healthy lifestyles to ultimately improve the quality of life for individuals, families and our community.
“It’s pretty relaxed,” said Betts. “That way everyone feels welcomed. Most of the dads in the group have gone through, or are going through whatever a new member in the group is dealing with. So a lot of the answers to questions come from the other fathers - basically it’s a group of peers. We have fathers who are court ordered, and we have fathers who just found the group and want to belong to a network of dads.”
According to the Initiative, family disintegration in Hawaii County is at a crisis point. In 2012 the state of Hawaii was ranked seventh highest in the U.S. for poverty, due in part to father absent households and out-of-wedlock births. Research has consistently shown a direct correlation between father absence and poverty. The Initiative believes that ensuring the welfare of children is a societal responsibility, and that as a community, we must commit to finding ways to create opportunities that will allow every child in sHawaii County to grow up with a loving, nurturing, and involved father or father figure.
“Kids pick up a lot more than we realize,” said Betts. “They catch on to the frustration, the nuances, and the aggravation. I always encourage the guys to never bad mouth mom around the kids and when they’re together they should be amicable and friendly. What I tell the guys is that she may be your ex-wife, but she’ll never be your child’s ex-mother.”
The Fatherhood Support Groups are at Tutu’s house in Waimea the first Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. Groups are also in Kona and Kau on Mondays. For more information, call 334-4154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.