Courtesy of Bright Beginnings via Twitter
Courtesy of Bright Beginnings via Twitter

A haircut, shave and putting on a crisp, clean shirt are part of most men’s grooming routine. But there is a different routine for men who are managing life with their homeless families.

Bright Beginnings, a Ward 8 organization that operates child and family development centers for homeless children in D.C., has launched a Bridging the Gap fatherhood program, a new initiative to help men prepare for work and to be good fathers.

For some time, Bright Beginnings staff has explored how fathers were identified in their programs and if fathers were involved in the home. Staff observed that many fathers were coming to Bright Beginnings to pick up their children, therefore a more completed family profile could be documented.

“Most of our programs have been for single mothers,” said Arthur Darby III, a workforce development specialist at Bright Beginnings who oversees the initiative. “When we saw fathers coming to Bright Beginnings, we had a sense of urgency to create a program for them.”

The initiative is a 12-week program based on the “Effective Black Parent Curriculum” from the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring. Bright Beginnings also consulted with other local partners who have parenting programs.

The first course was held this month as a launch event at Bright Beginnings’ Fourth Street location, where fathers were celebrated for their engagement in the home and with their children.

The event featured food, music, giveaways for tickets to sporting events, distribution of donated clothes and free haircuts from the Capitol Hill salon HIS Grooming.

Following the launch, the first workshop was presented that included the “Pyramid of Success” a guide designed for all families.

“The Pyramid has five components. It includes employment, community, relationships, health and education,” Darby said. “Once explained, the fathers were tasked with identifying ways to implement those components in themselves.”

In the sixth week of the program, fathers bring in their families for a group session. During that week-six session, everyone will work together exploring methods to incorporate the new learnings into the household.

Many of the fathers in the “Bridging the Gap” program are currently working. For those of them seeking employment, Bright Beginnings’ workforce development team conducts an assessment to determine what training will help with successful job placements.

At the end of the 12-week program, the fathers complete a “family growth plan” and certificates are given those who complete the program. In situations where the father and the mother are estranged, the Bright Beginnings team guides parents to understanding that their relationship directly affects the development of their child.

Bright Beginnings’ approach to working with homelessness is to take a “whole family” approach which includes a thorough review by the organization’s family services department.

“The program is open to all fathers,” Darby said. “Further, we continue to seek community partners to carry out this important mission for families.”

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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