EveryStep's FathersMatter Program: David's story

Americans will recognize the importance of fathers this weekend with gifts, phone calls and visits on Father’s Day. Based upon several studies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concludes that boys and girls who grow up with an involved father, as well as an involved mother, have stronger cognitive and motor skills, higher levels of physical and mental health, become better problem-solvers, and are more confident, curious and empathetic. Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.5 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home.

EveryStep’s FathersMatter program is designed to help fathers become good or better dads and spouses. Participants not only learn how to take care of their children or prepare for a newborn, they also learn the ropes of cleaning the house and cooking. Instructors teach the men how to replace the furnace filter, check the smoke detector battery and make doctor appointments.

Larry Young launched EveryStep’s FathersMatter program in 2016 and he continues to oversee the program. Most dads are non-English speakers and EveryStep interpreters provide interpretation for the 10 to 12 languages spoken by participants. “We try to work around the dads’ schedules. Some work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some work double shifts. Some work six days a week, so one-on-one works the best.”

David and his wife, Rebecca, were homeless in 2016, when Rebecca learned she was pregnant. Rebecca heard about EveryStep’s FathersMatter program through a case worker. She urged David to sign up, and he did. “I grew up without a father figure,” said David. “Larry helped me to grow up and figure out how to take care of my daughter.” One of his biggest achievements through the program was quitting cigarettes for his own health and that of his family. Rebecca has seen a big change in her husband and credits the program. “He’s a lot more mature. If we need something or I need help, he’s right there for me. I can count on him.”

David has held a full-time job for two years and they now have a home. They can’t imagine their lives without Star, now age 3. “She’s the happiest little girl,” said David, and Rebecca agrees. “She’s full of energy!”

Dads like David who are involved in EveryStep’s FathersMatter program gain knowledge, confidence and support, but Larry says he also gains a great deal. “I have been blessed with delivering baby items, food, etc., to the families’ homes,” said Larry. He’s been asked twice to be at the hospital while two of the participants became dads. He says there are many success stories, but in addition to David, two others immediately come to mind. “One is an African family with 11 kids. I was able to find them housing. They were living in a two-bedroom apartment and I was able to locate a five-bedroom townhouse that was even low-rent housing. Another dad, after a lot of pushing, was able to secure a job and keep it. He has now been working two and a half years at the same place and has been to help his wife obtain her driver’s license and now are working on getting his.”  

Larry says he is still in contact with dozens of dads who have been enrolled in the program “They’ll call me when they need advice or just want to say hi.” Find more information about EveryStep’s FathersMatter program at www.everystep.org/provider-resources or call (515) 558-9946.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at https://www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.