Dads Open Up In Norfolk's Fatherhood Development Group
The City of Norfolk offers a Fatherhood Development Group twice a year to teach parenting skills and improve relationships between fathers and their children. The program started in 2012.
Corey Brooks is the senior residential services specialist in Norfolk’s Young Terrace community. He co-facilitates the meetings.
Brooks says the course covers topics from managing anger to expressing love.
“One of the stereotypes is that men are not talkative,” Brooks says. “These men, once they come to our groups, they're more than willing to share, open up about some deep-rooted secrets and things that may have transpired in their lifetime as they developed as young men.”
Some participants are required to attend by court order.
Xaviera Evans is the early prevention supervisor at Norfolk Human Services. She oversees the program, and notes that holding sessions virtually has not been ideal.
“Engagement is a big piece in order for this particular group to be effective,” she says.
Brooks agrees that the online format is difficult, but he says participation has remained steady. The fathers are generally apprehensive at the start of the program. But the group size is small -- five to 10 participants -- and, Brooks says, they warm up quickly.
Many men who participate in the group have difficulties with fatherhood because they have histories of abuse or neglect from their own childhood, according to Brooks. The conversations can be intimate and personal.
“So, as a part of our group, we talk about breaking the cycle,” Brooks says. “We all divulge, and we evaluate our own childhood and adolescent time in terms of how we develop our personalities and coping skills and how we communicate.”
Brooks and his co-leader, Cedric Green, share difficulties from their own lives with the group from different generational perspectives: Brooks is “a little older,” while Green is “a little younger.”
Xaviera Evans sees the age gap between the two as one of the strengths of the program.
“We have two different age ranges, we have two different perspectives,” Evans says. “And they're able to engage the fathers on all different levels.”
The program connects the fathers with resources they might need, from bus tickets to help with child support issues. Vendors and resource providers are invited to make brief presentations about services in the community.
The Fatherhood Development Group is free for Norfolk residents. This session runs for eight weeks online beginning Thursday, January 14.