Local Group Helps Fathers Share Advice About Fatherhood

Local Group Helps Fathers Share Advice About Fatherhood

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PHILADELPHIA -

Like most dads, Sharif Green of Wilmington, Delaware wants the absolute best for his young children.

But when it came to raising his two daughters, Rihanna and Reason, Green admits he didn't exactly give it his "best."

"My relationship with my children was mostly estranged due to my relationship with their mothers," says Green.

However, something he saw three years ago changed all that.

"I think I [saw] a flyer in the streets one day on a telephone pole or something...fathers club meeting. Tuesday night. 6 o'clock. YMCA," remembers Green.

It was "Daddy University," to the rescue, a place where men gather to talk about what it takes to be a great dad!

The group is the brainchild of West Philadelphia native, Joel Austin.

"When I worked in fast food, I got a booklet on French fries. When I had my first child, I got a football," reflects Austin.

That clearly was not enough for Austin, who says he didn't know what he needed to care for his brand new baby boy. And he wasn't the only one.

"I found out my friends didn't know," remembers Austin. "I found out my friends' friends didn't know."

But rather than be discouraged, Austin set up meetings for men to talk about everything from changing diapers to changing their attitudes.

"It developed into us coming up with practical solutions and understanding... co-parenting and relationships… and taking accountability for decisions that we made," says Austin.

"I process things a little clearer now as opposed to just jumping in and then having some mild regrets later," reflects one member of the group.

Austin says that Daddy University strives to bring out the best in any man. It doesn't matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, social worker or ex-offender. Just come and be a part of the solution.

"I just bring whatever I can give... to the youth and to place emphasis on fatherhood," says another member of the group.

That, as well as understanding what it means to be a father.

"The role they were told they play was financial. when we dug into the research, we found we played a whole different role: a role of structure; a role of discipline; a role of achievement; a role of empowerment," says Austin.

It's a strategy that licensed psychologist, Thomas Howarth of the Joseph J. Peters Institute believes makes for a more well-rounded child.

"More information is better for everything," says Dr. Howarth. "When you think about the larger context, generations past, we were a much tighter community: there were organized families, families were very organized around each other. There was a lot of availability of intergenerational knowledge on how to raise children. That no longer is necessarily present."

Many families today live disconnected lives according to Dr. Howarth. Austin says his, daddy university is working hard to change all that.

"It's a challenge to be a father. Any man who completely walks away is not clear on his role. He's not clear on what he's ordained to do," says Austin. "There's always a time to apologize, there's always time to hug and to say you're sorry."

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