Since its inception four years ago, Allegheny County’s Dads Assisting Dads program has reunited 14 fathers with their children who are in the child welfare system.
On May 28, the program celebrated those fathers and 18 more who are currently working through the program at its fourth annual banquet.
Joining the celebrants were family members and friends, WQED producer and host Chris Moore, who served as emcee, and Family Court Judges John T. McVay and Guido A. DeAngelis.
“Its an innovative thing we’re doing to engage fathers. And I am impressed with how well it’s working,” McVay said. “I’ve seen fathers engaged and reunited with their children. But I will say we, as a court, need to do a better job of engaging fathers in CYF-involved cases. I think there continues to be a need in reaching these fathers. We’re doing a better job than we were, and DADs is a great tool to improve engagement.”
Started in May 2010 within the Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Children, Youth and Families, DADs’ original mission was to help fathers who were involved in the child welfare system better understand the system so they could become, or stay, a part of their children’s lives. It now includes other topics of interest to fathers as well.
In 2011, DADS joined the All-Pro Dads program started by former Steeler Tony Dungy as a way to increase the variety of opportunities available to fathers and their children to strengthen their families.
From 2011 through 2012, DADs was used as the starting point by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s State Roundtable Father Engagement Workgroup to create a statewide approach to involving fathers in the lives of their children.
DeAngelis, like McVay said he was delighted to have been asked to speak at the event because he believes in the program and its mission.
“As a result of the hard work they’ve done, they get great satisfaction, and that’s an important thing to learn,” he said. “The program is very well done. And I say that because it’s not only about a commitment to ideals, they expect a personal commitment from each dad to their child.”
DeAngelis and McVay said the bulk of the credit for DADs’ success goes to program administrator Jerry Harvey for challenging these men to be successful.
Harvey said it was the cooperation and collaboration of the court and other agencies that has helped.
“Seventeen of the family court judges are on board with this, so they’ve been there for us since day one,” said Harvey.
“We teach them how to reconnect, how to get out of the system and how to keep their children safe. We have job search and readiness assistance, Mercy Behavioral Health, and even Jeremiah’s Place helps out with childcare during meetings because 80 percent of the fathers are dealing with kids that are infants to 5-years-old.”
Harvey said eventually, he’d like to expand the program to deal with fathers coming out of incarceration, who want to reconnect with children. But for now his plate is pretty full, but the partners make it fun sometimes.
“They are concentrating, and I’m very happy with that,” he said. “And we have a group of dads and kids going to the Pirate game this week. And I got 20 on-field passes for Steelers camp this year–they really get excited about that.
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