New mentorship program for fathers aims to create support network for dads

Local News

Fathers in Western New York will soon have the chance to get involved in a new mentorship program to help make stronger families.

“One of the things that we want to drive is to really decrease the likelihood of a father walking out of the life of his child, because they don’t necessarily feel equipped to do that,” said Antoine Johnson, who is working to develop the new program now.

“I think the importance in the mentoring program is that they’ll not only have the support network, but at the same time, they’re developing themselves as a man, as a parent, and really feeling strengthened to be the best father that they can be,” he said.

Johnson works with dads day in and day out through his role as the Fatherhood Coordinator for the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network.

“Pretty much, I do everything from facilitating work groups with fathers, grant writing, and developing other programs,” he explained.

Johnson says there’s a real need in our community for more programs tailored specifically for fathers.

“A lot of times dads don’t feel comfortable with going to receive the help or feel as though they’re a second class citizen or a second class parent,” he said.

Johnson is working to change that, creating a new fatherhood mentorship program with the help of Mentor New York, which will pair newer fathers with more experienced dads.

“Really, the overall goal is to help provide a support network for dads, but in the context of a mentoring relationship, so dads will have someone else to be able to lean on and gleam some insight from,” Johnson said.

Already, Johnson has some dads lined up to take part as mentors. They’re participants in the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network’s Nurturing Fathers program, who are ready to graduate to help teach some of what they’ve learned to others.

Terry Seay, a father of four, says he’s excited to become a mentor. “It will continue to reinforce what I’ve learned. By giving away you get to keep it,” he said. “It gives me pride, and increases my self-worth.”

Seay says he’s seen a huge benefit from taking part in the Nurturing Fathers program, and he’s anxious to pass along some of those lessons.

“I wish I had that myself years ago. It would have made it a whole lot easier. I would have felt more confident and convenient being a father to the children in my life,” he said.

The mentorship program is still in the development phase, but Johnson says he hopes to have it up and running by this fall.

To get involved, contact Antoine Johnson at (716) 884-6711 ext. 279 or by emailing ajohnson@bppn.org

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