Dads learn to break cycle of violence

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 12:14 PM

Strong Fathers is a program that helps men who have a history of domestic violence learn to become better fathers.
Katie Bauman, director of the Strong Fathers program at the Center for Child and Family Health in Durham, said the program approaches each man as an individual. In classes over 20 weeks, the men learn how to improve their parenting skills, learn about the negative impact of domestic violence on children, increase empathy toward children, and reduce coercive and abusive behavior toward their children’s mother.
Bauman talked about the program during the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham’s monthly roundtable Thursday at Shepherds House United Methodist Church. Started after a 2008 audit that revealed a need for services for fathers and for domestic violence, there have been 10 completed groups in Winston-Salem and six in Durham. Durham is about to see the completion of its seventh group. Strong Fathers isn’t the only program for domestic violence offenders, but it takes a different than traditional programs, Bauman said. Instead, Strong Father acknowledges that: “You’re here, you’re human, you have your own history. … How can we help you be the best model, the best influence, the best parent you can be?” she said.
Strong Fathers doesn’t point fingers or shame, Bauman said.
“The population we serve, for the most part, are fathers who want to be involved, but don’t have models,” said Samuel Clayborn, who facilitates the groups. “I disagree with the idea that a man is king of the castle. You’re setting them up there,” he said. That kind of thinking feeds into ego, he said, and discourages men from things like crying. “I’m for equality. Everyone has a voice at the table.” The program tries to bring it back, and to understand that “hurt people hurt people,” he said.
Deanna Manley said they try to stop that cycle, and also look at how men are socialized as far as what it means to be a man and a father.
Manley, who works at the Durham Crisis Response Center and with Strong Fathers, was hesitant at first to become involved with offenders.
“We think about women as victims…But male children will model that behavior, and female children become victims,” she said. Manley also pointed out that one in six boys are sexually assaulted or molested.
Bauman said the only fathers they exclude from the program, most of whom are referred from the Department of Social Services, are those who are suspected of sexually abusing children.
“We take men who are interested in being good fathers and violence has become a pattern because that’s how they grew up,” she said.
During the 20 sessions, fathers talk about their own childhoods and learn about early childhood development. They also talk about discussing with their children how the violence has impacted the children. And they learn parenting skills like praise, and how to be a role model. The program also encourages fathers to get out of toxic relationships and learn how to co-parent.
Strong Fathers is funded by the North Carolina Division of Social Services. To find out more, contact Katie Bauman at 919-578-3237 or Kathryn.bauman@duke.edu.

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