Program designed to train dads

Published 3:21 am Saturday, June 15, 2013

Most people learn parenthood by example, and that’s exactly what a new program aims to do by teaching Alabama probationers how to be better men and better fathers.

Chris Jackson and District Attorney Walt Merrell introduced the concept to members of the Andalusia Lions Club Wednesday. The men said each felt called to address the “absent father” in today’s families, and are doing the program through their church, Bethany Baptist.

To do that, the goal is to begin by reaching young men on probation.

“We want to help them to understand their position in life in being good fathers and good family members,” Jackson said. “We want to help them define what it means to be a good father, what it means to be a man, and what real men do.

“We want to help them gain an understanding that as a man and as a father they have a high priority mission only they can complete,” he said. “We want to help them understand when fathers are involved with their children, great things happen.”

Jackson said that research shows that when the father is present and engaged inside the home, children:

• perform better in school, both academically and socially;

• have higher self esteem and lower rates of depression;

• are less likely to display aggressive or hyperactive behaviors;

• are less likely to engage in high risk behaviors (e.g., drugs, truancy); and,

• for boys, are more likely to become responsible fathers themselves.

“Many of the births at Andalusia Hospital are to single moms, and there’s no dad around,” Jackson said. “That’s a disturbing number, and a big percentage of births happen to ladies under 18.

“That means these children, and we’re targeting boys, they don’t have an idea of what it means to be a real man, how to be a leader in the family, how to provide for a family, or any of those things,” he said. “And before you know it, many have turned to crime and they’re standing in front of a judge.”

The program, called “Breaking Free – Developing Authentic Manhood,” looks to break that cycle. The 12-week voluntary program would be offered to the county’s more than 400 non-violent probationers. Classes of 12-15 men would be held at various locations in the county beginning in the fall – two in Andalusia, two in Opp, one in Florala and possible one in the northern portion of the county. Volunteers are needed to help present materials, and male volunteers, called “mentors,” are needed to sit in the class and encourage those participating.

“Who better than to lead the class and be there to say an encouraging word than an older man who knows what it takes to lead a family,” Jackson said. “We want participants to learn by example.”

For more information, or to volunteer, contact Jackson at