MBK grant may fund Nurturing Fathers Program

Sherman Webb-Middlebrooks, at left, and Antoine Johnson, far right, stand with another group of men who have completed the Nurturing Fathers Program through Buffalo Prenatal Parenting Network. The program’s goal is to educate young men as to the positive outcomes for their children and themselves that staying engaged as a father can bring. (Photograph submitted)

The Nurturing Father’s Program, a nationwide initiative, may be coming to Lockport schools with funding from the My Brother’s Keeper grant – a $500,000 grant created to help boys and young men of color to succeed academically.

Holly Dickinson, grant and community programs director for the district, said one of the reasons the program was chosen was because the grant stated the school should, “provide fatherhood training programs that focus on helping fathers play a positive role in the lives of their children, which includes the provision of emotional and material supports.”

Dickinson also said that she had previous experience with the Buffalo Prenatal Parenting Network (BPPN), one of the organizations that offers the program, and thinks highly of Antoine Johnson who delivers the program.

“The (Advisory) Council has had the opportunity to meet Mr. Johnson and are very pleased with him,” she said. “The council unanimously selected to move forward with the inclusion of the Nurturing Fathers program.”

While the next step is to get the approval of the Lockport Board of Education and form a contract between the district and BPPN, Dickinson said that when and if the program is accepted, community members will get the chance to implement the program for the student population.

Johnson explained that the ball is in the district’s court his organization will continue to consult for at least the first part of the grant’s four-year funding.

“From my understanding, the Lockport School District is going to take the program, once they’ve gone through and got some training,” Johnson said. “And use it as they see fit.”

The training will begin by modeling the Nurturing Fathers Program for dads and male caregivers in the district and community and then provide additional training on how to implement similar groups in the school.

“What we’ve done in the past when we offered the Nurturing Fathers training to the community members, or community leaders. We’ve done the training over a two day period. So, what we’ll do is mix in some of the group sessions. … Then we’ll go over the art of facilitation, and we’ll talk about the unique approach of working with men when it comes to parenting programs.”

Johnson said that while this is the first time his organization has offered the program to high school students, the program does have a long history with young fathers as being a “malleable” and “adaptive” program.”

“The Nurturing Fathers Program itself is an evidence based program that’s been in existence for over 30 years now and it was originally developed or created by a gentlemen named Mark Perlman out of Sarasota, Florida,” he said, explaining that in 2018 the curriculum was introduced to BPPN through the Buffalo Fatherhood Initiative and adopted in partnership with Say Yes Buffalo.

Since then Johnson said the program has helped over 400 dads.

“One of the cool things about the Nurturing Fathers Program that you should know is that it’s malleable, it’s adaptable. It can be somewhat adjustable for the population,” he said. “… You don’t have to be a father yet to be benefited by the content of the curriculum.

“I went through a similar program in late 2017 (before I was a father). … I learned a lot of things that helped me unpack a lot of the frustration and hurt and unforgiveness I had toward my own father, who wasn’t in my life. … I believe, consequently, that having gone through the program … it’s helped me be a better husband and be a better father for my daughter. … And for the young people that would learn from this program or take things away? I think that if they have issues related to their father, whether he’s in the house or not – no father is perfect – I think that they will gain tools and insights to become better parents if they’re not already parents.”

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