An Uplifting Experience
On Tuesday the 6th of February I was privileged to attend the 5th Annual Fatherhood Conference for the State of Michigan put on by the Michigan Fatherhood Coalition in conjunction with the Michigan Head Start Association and let me tell you that there were some things that took place there that the rest of the America could learn from!
Overcoming the Obstacles with Dedication and Preparation
First of all, the conference took place on a date that saw most of the Detroit area schools closed because of the extremely cold (-20) temperatures and yet the room was completely full of people who came seeking to make Fathers a more significant part of families all across Michigan! The fact that so many people braved the weather to attend the conference in itself was quite amazing because it showed the depth of the commitment of the people of Michigan. This conference was also a testament to the Head Start Communications and Meeting Coordinator, Jennifer Nottingham, and her extremely well planned and promoted conference!
People from All Over Michigan
Next, the conference brought together people from all over the state of Michigan as was evidenced when they began to give out some awards and do some drawings for door prizes… the most heated interchange came when they were attempting to give away some money for lunch to the participant who traveled the longest distance to attend to attend the conference. It became obvious that MANY of the attendants came from long distances to get to the conference! This wonderful and extremely educational conference truly was a meeting that reached out to people from all parts of the state and not just the Detroit Area, where the conference was held.
The next thing that hit me was the ratio of men to women at the conference. It would be my rough estimate that there were three times as many men at the conference as there were women! “Now, what is odd about this?” you might ask. Since the conference was called a “Fathering Conference”, why is it odd to have men there? Well, I have some experience with conferences of this nature and it has been my experience that often the conferences held on Fatherhood are often populated by female workers who are trying to get men involved.
OBVIOUSLY, the State of Michigan has already reached the fathers! Yes, there many female Head Start Counselors and Social Workers in attendance, as well they should be, but it was so gratifying to see that those Head Start Workers, regardless of gender, had already reached so many fathers and had included them in the conference.
A few years ago I attended the New York State Child Abuse Conference and there was not one person out of the eight hundred in attendance, who had any history of child abuse! The conference was attended only by the people attempting to solve the problem and that struck me as odd. Should the conference not attract at least some of the people that they were attempting to reach?
An Impressive Conference
Suffice it to say that I was impressed that the Fatherhood Conference had attracted many fathers and it was my impression that those men in attendance were learning the tools that they needed to become leaders and activists on their own behalf!
Michigan Fatherhood Coalition
Next, and along the same line of reasoning, the Co-Sponsor of the Conference was a group called Michigan Fatherhood Coalition. Now, let me tell you, that group was unique in my experience. I don’t know any way to say this other that to just share my personal experience as I travel and meet people from all parts of America. Unfortunately, it has been my personal experience that most of the fathering groups that I have come in contact with have had some kind of a chip on their shoulder.
Many of the fathering groups that I have come in contact with, have had as their goal a change in the child custody laws of America. This change may need to to take place and many of the agencies have some very good, and sound reasons for seeking those changes, but the Michigan Fatherhood Coalition seemed so different to me. As I met the men at this conference it seemed that they were there simply to learn how to become better fathers!
It became even more obvious to me what the Michigan Fatherhood Coalition was all about when I met with a group of their Board of Directors and members following the conference. While they too might see the need for some changes in father’s rights in custody cases, that was certainly not their main focus! These men have formed their Coalition for the purpose of reestablishing the role of the strong father in the American home! Man, was that exciting for me to see! Strong men standing up and saying that they want to be leaders in teaching all fathers how to be strong leaders for their children! WOW!
A Learning Experience!
I was invited to attend the conference as a keynote speaker... and I left feeling like I had learned a great deal from a bunch of strong men! I had come in contact with a bunch of strong fathers building positive change for the children of Michigan.
I left with an overwhelming observation… “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every state in the country had a Fatherhood Coalition of strong dads, just like Michigan, who were working to bring strong fathers back into every home in America?”