MANSFIELD — Fathers play a critical role in a child’s life that can’t be filled by others — a role that is essential to a child’s healthy development.
But, like motherhood, fatherhood does not come with a manual.
That’s where advice and insight from experienced fathers can be of great help, which is what Richland Pregnancy Services seeks to provide via its Dad to Dad Mentoring Program.
This program launched in 2007 under the direction of former RPS board member, Pastor Ron Puff of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church on Ohio 13.
Dick Stedman, who is the current director of the program, was trained to become the first mentor dad to serve alongside Puff in early 2008.
Stedman said the goal of the program is to provide fathers with valuable education and mentoring in order to help them become the best dads that God has designed them to be.
In a confidential, one-on-one setting, dads meet with a mentor and together they discuss various topics, such as family background and upbringing, what they’ve learned about entering adulthood, processing and communicating emotions, balancing work and family, how to be engaged in their child’s life, building and/or maintaining a healthy relationship with their partner, and much more.
The program has over 20 lessons. With their mentor, participants work through different materials, including those by the National Fatherhood Initiative, such as “24/7 Dad” and “Doctor Dad.”
Sometimes during sessions they watch videos on pertinent subjects; for instance, they may screen “I Can Only Imagine” for individuals who had an abusive father growing up. Other times participants may come with questions and they spend the session discussing their questions.
Sessions last 45 minutes, and participants are welcome to take as many or little as they’d like. Stedman said one person completed 70 sessions.
Dads and their mentor usually meet once a week, but as Stedman noted, “It’s up to them and what their schedule is.”
The important role fathers play
“There is a big problem with absentee fathers in our country, and all the national studies show those children with absentee fathers are more likely to grow up having problems — they may drop out of school or all kinds of things can happen,” Stedman said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home.
Children raised in an absent-father home are more likely to have behavioral problems, face abuse and neglect, abuse drugs and alcohol, commit crime, drop out of high school, among other startling statistics according to the National Fatherhood Initiative.
“We feel that this community needs to have involved dads, it needs to have families that are growing stronger,” Stedman said.
Since the Dad to Dad program launched, about 400 to 500 fathers have been mentored, the majority of whom are Richland County residents, Stedman said.
Stedman oversees the program and serves as a mentor, along with two other mentor dads. He said earlier this month he hopes to have two other mentor dads begin seeing clients soon.
“You can't be a mentor dad without being a father,” said Stedman, who has three adult children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Most of the participants in the Dad to Dad program are new dads, Stedman said, although some have multiple children.
By enrolling in this program (or the Mom to Mom program or parenting classes), participants can earn “Dad Dollars” which may be used to redeem items at the RPS boutique. The boutique offers a variety of goods and supplies that can support pregnancy up to the child’s 18th month.
Thanks to the faithfulness of their donors, RPS’s programs are offered at no cost to the participants, Stedman said.
“We try to work as much as possible with any of the community agencies to let them know our services are available to anyone they recommend to us and assure them that there are no charges,” Stedman said.
Call 419-522-8862 or visit Richland Pregnancy Services at 1560 W. 4th St. for more information.