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Sacramento dads have an ally when it comes to navigating family court and help on parenting: the nonprofit Center for Fathers and Families.
“Our goal is to make fathers into men and make men into fathers,” said Terry Moore, director of adult services at the center. “A lot of them don’t have that take-charge mentality, and we help them provide for their families and look after their families’ safety, even if they’re not with the mother.”
The center, at 920 Del Paso Blvd., was founded in Sacramento in 1994 and provides myriad programs for fathers, kids and families in general, but the focus is on helping fathers develop and maintain the skills needed to be active members of their families, Moore said.
“Fatherhood is forever,” said the center’s CEO, former Oakland Raiders Super Bowl champion Rick Jennings, II. “Once we commit to our children, the future is that much brighter.”
That commitment can come at all income levels, and the center provides a list of 100 low- or no-cost ways for dads to spend time with their kids.
“Pack a lunch, go down to the river, sit on the bank and have a picnic and throw rocks,” Moore said. “There are so many ways. Even just going for a ride on light rail or going up to the (Nimbus) fish hatchery and feeding the fish are great. And the fish hatchery is free, and all kids will love that.”
He said the list includes numerous other ideas that many dads might not think of, but find fun.
Also offered are classes on parenting, where dads learn how to change diapers and mix baby formula, among other topics.
Anger management classes are offered as well.
“A lot of these guys let their tempers get the best of them, and that sometimes keeps them from having unsupervised visitation with their kids,” Moore said. “We help them control that anger and have them focus on the positive.”
The center’s seven employees have training in counseling, family law and other areas that help their clients.
Whitney Robinson, a 52-year-old dad, said that when he was 30, he didn’t have the help he needed dealing with family courts.
“My daughter’s mother took me through hell,” he said. “I had always been the kind of guy who, when it came to defending myself, it was on the streets by fighting or whatever. In the legal system, I couldn’t defend myself.”
He said that when he moved to Sacramento from San Francisco in the 1990s and had a steady job working for a telecommunications company, he wanted to volunteer, and he found the Center for Fathers and Families.
He described the center as a fraternity where men can gather and hep each other solve problems and prepare for mediation with mock runs and classes as well as other legal routes they will likely take when it comes to determining custody of children.
“The center really brings families together,” he said, adding that it helps turn around the problem of “deadbeat dads” by helping them interact with their kids.
Patrick Hunter, a Sacramento father of two in his 40s, said he came across the center about three and a half years ago.
“I was experiencing some difficulties with the family court system,” he said. “I consider myself pretty intelligent, but they were the objective party that helped give me pointers on how to handle problems with paperwork and give me assistance on parenting a young kid.”
When it came to playing with his daughter, who is now 4, he said advisers at the center told him not to be afraid to play house, pick out girls’ clothes and even dance.
“Every week I would pick up something different,” he said.
After-school programs – 12 in the Twin Rivers School District and two in Natomas – are also coordinated through the center, and Moore said they have classes for high school-age boys to help them get on track and stay on track when it comes to grades and staying out of trouble.
Moore said volunteers are always needed and welcome.
“We have a receptionist’s desk, but no receptionist,” he said with a laugh. “We can always use donations, too.”
Regular events are held to promote togetherness between dads and kids, and a special event will be held Friday for Father’s Day.
In the past, Moore said, father/daughter dances have been held. This year, however, the dance will be a smaller part of a larger event: a celebrity basketball game.
Coaching one team will be former WNBA star and Sacramento Monarchs player Yolanda Griffith. Super Bowl champion Jennings will coach the opponents. Teams will include local radio personalities, comics and church officials.
Moore said FM 102.5 radio personality Big Al Sams and New York Jets player Marcus Smith will be some of the celebrity players.
The game will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Rio Tierra Junior High School, 3201 Northstead Drive. A $3 donation is asked to cover shirts for kids and beverages, Moore said.
“We’re doing it on Friday so everyone has Father’s Day to do their own thing,” he said. “My 7-year-old daughter has plans for me. I don’t know what they are, but that day is for her.”
To contact the Center for Fathers and Families, click here.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.