Project Fatherhood was introduced
to Optimist in 2007 when several
Optimist staff participated in an
intensive one week training by the
program’s founder, Dr. Hershel
Swinger of the Children’s Institute.
That training made clear how essential it is for fathers to be integrally involved in their
children's lives for them to develop in a healthful, secure and successful way. That
involvement is characterized as regular, reliable, affirming, positive and loving in providing
care, guidance, support, protection and advocacy for his child(ren).
The process to achieve this naturally beneficial relationship between father and child is a
profound psychosocial issue that effects all father-child relationships - those with his own
children and those with his father. Some examples of these 'issues' are: separation and
loss, social isolation, coming of age, domestic violence, substance abuse, choosing a
healthy partner and others. The examining is best achieved in a group setting of fathers
sharing accounts, stories with one another of a specific issue. The story is told uninterrupted
and accepted unconditionally. Judgment, interpretation, and opining are discouraged. The
comments offered by other group members are encouraged to be appreciative and to be
relative to their own experience with the same issue.
At Optimist, a weekly group is offered and all interested young fathers are interviewed for
appropriateness with inclusiveness being the norm. Groups are facilitated in the process
described above. Participants almost always develop a degree of trust and intimacy rather
quickly and the result has been one of continuous progress in developing relationships with
their children (or children on the way).
This progress is observed in fathers' expressions of attachment, affection, anticipation,
involvement on home passes, interest in being present during birthing and so forth.